Sprouts

01/05/2015 - Sprouts - Thinker : Chapter Two

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Hi Reading Excuses, here's the second chapter of a novel I've been working on.

It's around 3500 words.

Blurb for the novel: A rural hunter becomes embroiled in a rebellion against the Hands of God when he is taken to be sacrificed.

The story so far:

Chapter One: Jack was out in the tundra hunting bruskil for the Festival when he was caught off guard by the animal and injured badly, losing consciousness.

Thanks to any that read and/or critique!

Looking forward to seeing what you guys think about this chapter following Chapter One.

Edited by Sprouts
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A good write, read it through until the end on a break at work. Not sure if I have time to comment on everything but here goes ...

"The man laughed as he burned. It was a harsh laugh. A mocking laugh."

Maybe something like "It was a harsh laugh tinged with fear. A mocking laugh filled with desperation"

 

The reason is because his response I get the wrong impression from a harsh mocking laugh - doesn't sound like disbelief of his situation but as superiority.

What is Mort's attitude towards what she is seeing (the burning)? Is she repuled or horrified? Her response seems too neutral and cold even -not sure if that was your intent.

“Mooorrt. What you grimacin’ for?” Late, drunk, and no gear. What do you think? His hands
scrambled across the pavement as he flipped himself over and tried to push himself up off the
ground. “Oh you’re a tricky road aren’t ya.” He cackled to the ground. The ground didn’t respond. If only he wasn’t the best thief this side of the mountains. I’d kick him halfway across the tundra."

not sure about grimacin - I usually see grimacing used 'he grimaced in pain' (not sure what that is called but as a sort of 'disconnected descriptor', rather than in dialogue "why are you grimacing?" In might read better to do something like "what's with the face? or 'what's with the troll in a bear trap yowling?' or some such.

'flipped himself over' sounds coordinated to me, might be better to say something like 'he rolled himself over' or 'flipped himself over using a uncoordinated series of pushes, wiggles and flopping motions if he is drunk (and hence uncoordinated)

"The ground didn’t respond." might be better something like 'he seemed confused when the ground didn’t respond.'

"He had a cloth bundle" you probably need a descriptor like 'a huge cloth bundle' or a different word than bundle. To me, bundle conjours the image of a tight effecient package - but that might just be me. Maybe even 'he strained to support the massive bundle grasped by" ?

Sorry I'm at work so can't review a lot more but i do want to suggest you add some more 'sensory descriptors' (other than visual) - for example 'the bundle clickned as he put it down' 'she caught a whiff of his fetid breath as he smiled.' 'the grafiti covered wall smelled of urine' 'she felt the heat of the fire' etc. It seems at this quick read that you are focusing mainly on visual senses and would be richer if you tied in more senses.

Looking forward to the next chapter. Keep writing.

Edited by stormweasel
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I liked this a lot more than the first chapter.  There is immediately a sense of action, and the characters draw me in, as they all have flaws and feel very real.  I'm interested to know what will happen with Mort and co.  There's a good sense of suspense, you've noted items that won't work, and the thief is drunk.  These character work together well, and Mort came up with a good plan to get them out of a bind.

I also liked the description of the Hands.  We don't get a lot, except for two names, Sorrow and Anger, and the description of Anger's face matches his name.

 

As Stormweasel said, the beginning of this is not as interesting as when we get to Mort and co's mission.  You don't really have a POV at the beginning--you don't mention Mort until two paragraphs in.  You might name-drop her earlier so then we know we're watching through someone's eyes.

 

I didn't have a problem with the description, though there weren't as many at the beginning.  I thought the sensory clues later in the chapter were good, lots of visual and auditory clues.  You could add mentions of smells, that of the torches, and the pitch, and the smell of the chemical bottle.  

 

 

A couple notes:

 

pg 1: "The man’s laugh gurgled..."

--very long run-on sentence here

 

pg 2: "Alright. You guys are both sober..."

--Eh?  Percy is very obviously drunk...Not sure what the intent is here.  I would think even he would realize he's drunk.

 

 

Looking forward to more!

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I enjoyed this, it was a good read! 

 

Quick note: a baguette is a French bread. As silly as it sounds, a baguette showing up was enough to pull me out of the world for a moment.

 

I like that the rank of the Hands seem to be shown by the style of their masks. Plus it makes for interesting imagery with the fire scene. I am left wondering what makes a Hand so intimidating, but I assume we'll figure that out soon so it makes me anxious to read!

 

One thing that sticks out to me is that I don't know why Mort is looking for this Hand in the prison. Again, I assume this is something that will be answered in upcoming chapters so no worries yet. 

 

One last small thing; The guard that Mort interrogated, his neck was bleeding by the end right? I think that might arouse some suspicion if the other guards picked him up and saw that his neck was bleeding.

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Thanks for the critiques!  

 

Stormweasel,

I agree about the laughing.  When I read over it before submitting I went back and forth on how to change that part and ended up leaving it as is.  I'll make sure to bring it inline with what it should be portraying during revisions.

 

On Mort's reaction to the burning, I wanted it to come off as mostly mundane to her.  Obviously grotesque and horrible, but routine enough to not really bother her.  There weren't really any good sentences to bring that across though.

 

The rolling over thing for Percy while drunk is a good idea.

 

Mandamon,

I'm glad you liked this chapter more.  After getting everyone's feedback on the first chapter I was happy to note that most of it seemed to be amended by this chapter, as I had already written it.  Hopefully the rest of the chapters can keep you as interested.

 

The "You guys are sober" line by Mort was intended to come across as humorous.  To me it sounds as if she's stating that if they show any signs of being drunk, and she knows that they are drunk, then they'll be in trouble.  It could be one of those lines that works for me as I know what I intended.  Some feedback from others would be great on this one.

 

LerroyJenkins,

Haha, I always just assumed baguette was the french word for loaf of bread.  Either way, 'loaf of bread' is better and less obtrusive.  I was a little mixed on him having the bread in the first place.  As it's mostly just a gag.  

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the imagery with the fire and the grinning mask.  I was very happy with that visual.  Also, thanks for catching the bleeding neck part, I realized that as well after submitting.  I'll probably change it in a revision.  But for now, just pretend it was a very, very small amount of blood.  That or the guards aren't very discerning.  

 

 

Thanks for reading and critiquing!  Mort and co. will be back next week.  

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I enjoyed the tone and thought the characters had distinct personalities, but I did have some issues with certain behaviour and set up. I liked that there was some humour through it. Percy’s line “Wrong turn?” and the response made me smile. The Hands feel suitably threatening and imposing, that’s good.

 

I will say that some of the names have thrown me a little. Mad Thinker is a Marvel Villain in Fantastic Four and Mort is a Terry Pratchett character in his fourth novel, “Mort”. I doubt there would be any legal issue with using Mort, as it’s a contraction of Mortimer, so I doubt it could by copyrighted (Warning: I am not an expert, a lawyer, or a copyrighter!). Similarly, I'm not sure one could copyright “Thinker” as a title, but what do I know.

 

So, right from the off we’re into some heavy stuff. I'm contrasting this with the less impactful opening chapter, which did not grab my attention. I'm not saying “Grab people’s attention with stomach-churning violence”, just that it’s worth considering carefully the first impression that your story makes. WE often talk about discarding the first scene, or even chapter in the edit, when you realise where the significant opening is and where the promises to the reader are.

 

Overall, I'm still enjoying the story. It feels like it is properly started know. Good pace of events, tension and threat. Final comment in summary, the gang carrying out a job, and the Hands, Mort’s observation of the execution – these elements do feel rather Mistborn-y (referring to the separate thread on the subject. Detail comments follow.

 

You use the word “mask” twice in the same sentence.

 

Can you have multiple infinities? Interesting question!

 

 ‘Hand of the Thinker’, for me, brought to mind ‘Hand of the King’, pretty much straight away.

 

“cut over” seemed awkward to me – I thought “cut off” or “drowned out”.

 

(suggest) “...balcony she had been waiting on

 

(tense confusion) “Who knows what’s in this puddle.”

 

Hmm, I doubt very much that Percy is the best thief in town when he is so inept – very unprofessional. Either that or there aren’t many thieves this side of the mountains. I think it casts a big question mark over his credibility, but also over Mort’s judgement.

 

Seems a very strange place to find a toad, from the description I kind of doubt there any ponds or gardens nearby.

 

(awkward phrasing ) “Light lit the walls of the tunnel up ahead, reflecting on the walls...”

 

No way would you keep a glass flask rolled up in blanket with a bunch of metals things. That’s going to be broken as it’s carried, or roll away when you unroll the blanket.

 

“She figured her chances... was were  about as likely as...” – also, phrasing of chances being likely sounds odd to me.

 

“...up to next to the bend...”

 

Why must there be noise beyond the door? Don’t see that that follows automatically. I gather this is the main entrance to the prison, seems very inaccessible. I'm guessing that it’s not all that large a prison, as it seems that there is not much capacity to get larger numbers of people in or out together. I'm thinking of evacuating or guards gaining access.

Seems to me the alarm bells (in Mort’s head) should be ringing pretty hard right now, or she’s really not experienced at this sort of thing or, even if she is not, Percy, as an expert thief should have grave misgivings and be protesting, I think.

 

“...Sari and he had discovered...”

 

“intel” is a modern word – way out of context.

 

Ah, Percy shows some chops as a thief by noticing the hidden door, that’s better. It’s not that I have a problem with a thief being a drunkard, but to be considered a decent thief, I would think his being drink on arrival at the job would be unusual and therefore Mort would have been angrier and maybe remarked on how unusual it was, how he’d let her down, put the success of the job at risk, etc.

 

I like the drool image, a nice economic description that immediately paints a picture of the guard’s condition. I wonder if Mort should be more worried. This is the worst-guarded prison I can recall reading about. Doesn’t it scream “Trap!”?

 

The baguette is slightly farcical, or rather, tends to reinforce Percy’s farcical behaviour up to now. Is he intended to be the fool of the piece, because he’s coming across that way? Not saying it’s wrong, just that I think it tends to conflict with his profession as an expert thief.

 

Can eyes sputter? Not sure they can. Also, repetition of “eyes”.

 

Repetition of “back” in the same sentence.

 

Hang on, is Percy’s first noise supposed to be him trying to attract Mort’s attention? If he’s heard guards coming surely there is no way he’s going to delay bringing it to her attention. They are in mortal danger.

 

“...forced it over his face.”

 

If the guards are coming for them, I'm struggling with the time frame. From the time that Percy made the first noise, or even from the time that Mort became aware of the guards coming, it must have taken at least maybe 3 minutes for her to think it out, the others to get in the crates, Mort to knock out the guard. The corridor did not strike me as that long and the guards presumably know where they are going. Strikes me they should have arrived before now.

 

“tip-off” strikes me as a modern word as well. I know the WE guys have discussed this and I think Brandon’s view is that it isn’t a problem, he uses modern words because they are part of the lens that a modern readership considers the telling of the story. That is his opinion, mine is different. Using such modern terms draws me out of the story. Maybe I'm a fuddy-duddy, but I think preserving the tone of the piece by using language that is consistent with the setting is important. Then again, he’s sold a ‘billion’ books and I’ve sold ‘0’, but I’ve read a good few...

 

The mixture of ‘western’ names and fictional names is a little distracting sometimes – personal impression.

 

Again, Percy provides a comical, almost farcical touch, but it does create sudden and effective tension.

 

Repetition of “room” in the same sentence, then another “room” soon after, also, it’s not a pool of darkness, surely, but completely dark?

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Thanks for reading and for the detailed critique Robinski.

 

On the names.  Do you think it would be worth going through and making a consistent decision across the book in terms of names now that I've already gotten a ways into the book?  Find and replacing would make changing names pretty manageable so it's definitely an option.  I tend to come up with names as I write as I have an ungodly time trying to think them up beforehand, really not sure why.  The names are definitely something I'm unhappy with for the most part.  Besides Mort and Thinker actually.  I haven't read any Terry Pratchett and the Thinker is only the title of the book because before submission I just had it titled "WIP book".  

Would anyone mind if the names all changed for later submissions?  I could always make a little key to help with the transition.

 

There are multiple infinities.  I'm sure someone other than me can explain it better.  But to my knowledge there is a positive and negative infinity as well as an infinity in the range between any two numbers.  Basically, there are an infinite number of different infinities.  

 

I'm both happy and sad you called be out on Percy.  I'm honestly not even sure why I made him drunk, probably for some attempt at humor. I knew something had to be wrong about my characterizations there, I could feel it.  But I wasn't sure what exactly it was.  My intent was for him to be talented and capable of helping Mort and Eddrin, but also be aware of how unlikely it was for their little band of rebels to make a difference, and therefore be more willing to just enjoy himself.  The characterizations in this chapter were barely even working for me, so I'll make sure to give that a lot of thought whenever I get to revisions for this chapter.

 

On the modern words in the setting.  The setting isn't entirely what it seems, but those words are still out of place.  I'll find replacement words for them that fit better.  Unfortunately the chapter I just submitted today also contains them...  

 

Thanks again, I can always count on you really picking out what isn't working!

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On the names thing, I don't think it's too late to change them, from a reader's viewpoint, as we've only just encountered then this week, although if you've written a lot more material using those names, I wouldn't object to you keeping them through the first draft of your story. It then becomes that much harder to change them of course! Tricky one. I mentioned my first novel in another post and how it will never be submitted because of the many things wrong with it, which I learned through WE. One of the things, and this is REALLY spectacular, is that I somehow ended up with a protagonist called Dargol (terrible name to start with) and his relationship character being called Dazkin - really, I'm not kidding - how dumb is that?

 

Anyway, I guess my point is that names can be powerful allies, but can also be an Achilles heel... (hmm, good name that).

 

Having drawn you attention to it - don't feel obligated to change Mort if you don't want to - or just tweak it slightly - Marta, Mowt, Mol, Mot - there are always options.

 

I'm not smart enough to argue with you on the infinities thing, I'll just keep quiet and nurture my skepticism.

 

On Percy, the humour was maybe a bit slapstick in places. I think your idea can work (for me) and it's just in the handling. Like maybe his drunkenness (or inebriation) is not a focus of overt humour, but he's trying to hide it and Mort sees small signs (e.g. breath is always a tell-tale of excess) then calls him on it and they get into an argument over it. Harsh words are spoken and there's tension within the team even before the job starts.

 

Looking forward to this week's. I'll get to it, by I owe Stormweasel a look at his last two first.

 

: o )

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I know I already put in my critique, but I just wanted to jump in here, hope that's ok.

 

With the names; I had the same problem, and I decided to use a convention for all my names (won't tell you guys what it is otherwise you'll point out flaws or jump to conclusions). I had written two chapters with a character having the wrong name, so I just used the "Find and replace" tool which sprouts mentioned that is under the Edit tab in Google docs. Made it really easy.

 

Percy; You might consider the idea of the unlikely hero but with a thief. A goofy drunkard is the last person I would expect to be a skilled thief, but having him be a thief would make for an interesting (all be it tricky) story.

 

Infinities; It doesn't truly matter if multiple infinities exist or not, either way the idea helps convey the power that the Hand thinks the Thinker has. 

 

alright, that's it for my actual input. But I am bored and the whole Infinities thing is fun to me so if you want to read it, I'll tell you how I understand it below.

 

There are an infinite number of numbers between 0 and 1 (i.e., .1, .2, .3 etc), and an equal number of numbers between 1 and 2. This means that there is a greater number of numbers between 0 and 2 than there are between 0 and 1 right? So you have at least two different sized infinities, meaning they must be two different infinities. Now once you consider there are infinite ranges of numbers you could use(0 to 3, 0 to 4 etc..) you realize that there's not only multiple infinities, but there are infinite infinities. But you can also prove that 1+2+3+4... all the way to infinity, equals -1/12 so don't take math tricks too seriously haha 

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But, the Oxford Dictionary defines 'infinite' as limitless or endless. In you argument, it seems to me that '0' and '1' are limits. So another interpretation would be that, because there are more numbers beyond your first infinity (I'm looking at you here, Lightyear!!), surely it cannot be considered infinite. The true infinity is one without limits, by definition. I submit that, whatever it is that exists between '1' and '0', it is not infinity, and neither is anything else that has a limit place on it.

 

Another part of the definition is 'impossible to measure', however any school kid with a ruler could measure the so called infinity between '0' and '1', at least in two dimensions.

 

So, semantically speaking, my old world view remains intact.

 

Here's a counter-crazy theory. Maybe what exists between each whole number is, in fact, a parallel universe. This would be infinite in theory, but distinct in actuality.

 

In other words, a fart on this multiple infinity theory! (And that's a paraphrase of Arthur Miller, who was married to Marilyn Monroe and therefore cannot be wrong).

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I'll address your points, because it's fun to think about, then link you to a better explanation.

 

As to the limits of '0' and '1'.  Those numbers are only limits if you only consider infinity as moving outwards towards positive or negative infinity, up or down the number line. (Already two infinities there, though they are both part of the infinite set that can be seen to comprise all numbers).  If you consider 'depth', as in moving towards smaller and smaller increments, it is quite possible to never reach 0 or 1.  Now for an example I was given on a professorial tangent in calc.  Imagine you are stepping towards a wall.  Covering half the distance with each step.  Now, if you somehow had enough control over your muscles to be exact with your movements, you can see how you would never reach the wall.  You would progress forward, half the current distance each time, and never reach the wall.  That is an infinity between two numbers.  That's infinity that can exist between any two numbers no matter how large or small.  0 to 1. 1.54 to 1.541, etc etc.  

 

When thinking about measuring the infinity between two numbers it's also important to keep in mind that the numbers themselves, without any units like inches or meters attached, can not be measured with a ruler.  As the ruler is a measurement tool for units of distance.  

 

Now, how you would go about explaining the immeasurable qualities of an infinity between two inches on a ruler is a task for someone more knowledgeable than me. 

 

Anyways, here's a couple of links that I found in case you want to read more into it.  

http://vihart.com/how-many-kinds-of-infinity-are-there/                 <- Patrick Rothfuss is a big fan of Vihart.  I can't remember why.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.large.numbers.html

http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/Classes/CalcI/TypesOfInfinity.aspx

Edited by Sprouts
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I'm afraid when it comes down to it, I just like discussing these things, but I'm not willing to put in the hard yards actually reading expert opinion - too much like university, which I left behind a long time ago.

 

I can't accept positive and negative infinity. To me, that's just picking an arbitrary point and saying you can go an infinite distance in either direction (or an infinite number of directions) and each of those directions is a different entity. I can't see that, it must all be part of the same infinity. Regardless of where you are in the universe, there are an infinite number of directions in which you could travel, because you would be limiting them to two dimension, I think.

 

I can accept that there are an infinite number of measurements or gradations between '0' and '1' (or any other pair of numbers), but when you go beyond '1', you're still in the same infinity as you were in between '0' and '1'. The number '1' is a man-made construct that we use to help us understand the universe, but the universe does not understand '1', it just keeps on going right through '1' on it's way to infinity - but never gets there, of course.

 

The problem with this discussion I think is that, ultimately, it ends up as a discussion about the nature of God - or perhaps it's the same as a discussion about the nature of God, after all, I believe the bible (or is it the Qua-ran) says "God is infinite" - maybe that's a misprint, maybe it should read "God is infinity."

 

Btw, I'm not at all religious.

Edited by Robinski
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The Vihart link is more of an entertaining video, where she draws lots of little diagrams and images to explain in a timelapse format.  It also actually gives examples of different kinds of infinities, rather than just the sets of infinite size with different values that Lerroy and I have given.  The video's actually a pretty fun use of 15 minutes.  There's a reason she's so popular on youtube.

 

I feel that you are arguing less that there aren't different forms of infinity, and more that you just don't want to count infinite sets when they themselves are part of a different infinite set, based on some internal definition you follow.  Now, I could have no idea what I'm talking about, there's a reason I like programming and writing and not math.

Edited by Sprouts
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Ha-ha, yes, math has a lot to answer for. I'll watch the video, sounds intriguing.

 

Here's my parting shot on the matter. Infinity is infinite, it's self-defining. I think that any qualification made to a definition of infinity renders that which is being described as a lesser part of the (always larger) infinity.

 

Totally going to watch that video tomorrow.

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