Sprouts

01/19/2015 - Sprouts - Thinker : Chapters Four and Five

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Hi Reading Excuses, here's the fourth and fifth chapters of a novel I've been working on.

 
It's around 4500 words, so it's a little long.  Read and critique whatever you can make it through.
 
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.  
Chapter Two: Mort infiltrates a prison to try and free a potential ally.  She is forced to hide when the prison is not as deserted as it had first seemed.
Chapter Three: Mort descends into the prison and has a close encounter with an odd contraption, the Hand Contempt, and the Thinker.
 
Thanks to any that read and/or critique!
 
NOTE:  I changed the names between last submission and this one.  Here's a handy table.  I'm still not entirely satisfied.  But I plan to stick with these for the remainder of the first draft.  Thanks!

 

Characters(Old)  -  Characters(New)

Jack -> Taras

Lilia -> Irene

Kessel -> Melor

Mistha -> Mistha

Skya -> Raisa

Laris -> Batsukhan / Batsaikhan

Sari -> Nadia

Barrus -> Ivan

Mort -> Katja

Eddrin -> Eddrin

Percy -> Nazar

Sterk -> Sterk

Karl -> Karl

Thinker ->Thinker

Edited by Sprouts
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Okay...sorry for more negatives than positives.  I didn't like this chapter as much as the last couple.  I'll let my notes speak for themselves:

 

Pg 1: "His hair tore off the ground as he moved"

--this took a couple read-throughs to understand.  There's several other places where the "grittyness" makes it hard to understand what the sentence means.

 

Pg 1-4:

There's a lot of good description here, and we learn about Taras' determination, but there's almost too much.  Every paragraph is a major hurdle.  I know you're trying to show that Taras is wounded, and struggling to live, but I think there's too much blow-by-blow.  

For example, the entire paragraph about Taras tearing off strips of cloth from his jacket and binding his chest wound could be reduced to something like...well like what I just wrote, rather than a whole paragraph.

 

Pg 8:

Alph is a horse, right?  Why isn't Taras riding him so he doesn't collapse?

 

Pg 10:

By this point, we know Taras is wounded and in pain, so we don't need as many reminders.  I'm sort of skipping them to get to what happens next.

 

Pg 11/12:

I get something's happening with Taras and the animals, but it's pretty confusing.  Seems like Taras is in the wolves, and the bruskil, and then in his body again doing magic at the wolves?  I don't have enough context for how the magic works to understand it yet, or even make a guess.

 

You have a very visceral style, but at times it can overwhelm what is actually happening.  Especially coming off the excitement off the last chapter, the slow pace at the beginning of this chapter tends to drag.  In the end, not a whole lot happened, except Taras got out from under the bruskil, treated his wounds, then did something with wolves and another bruskil and got picked up by a Hand.  Which, looking back, is actually quite a bit, except the exciting part happens in 3 out of 13 pages and the rest was just Taras trying to stand up.

 

Anyway, still looking forward to next week. I have a feeling things will pick up quite a bit with the Hand threatening to burn him as a sacrifice!

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Thank for reading and critiquing Mandamon!  I'm sorry you didn't enjoy these chapters as much as prior ones.

 

I am definitely not as happy with the chapters that take place out of Athalin as I'd like to be.  Most of these early chapters were written before I got any feedback about what works and what doesn't, so I didn't get a chance to apply comments to improve them.  Chapters 2 and 3 were more of a happy accident, at least in seeming to take comments on chapter 1 into account.

 

Pg 8:   Alph is a horse, right?  Why isn't Taras riding him so he doesn't collapse?

 

I pictured Alph as a small pack mule, which I didn't think could be ridden, but apparently that's totally a thing.  So yeah, I'm thinking the Taras chapters will just need to be reworked once I get through the story and come back during revisions.  I don't even know if Taras will stay a primary character, I have much more trouble writing his chapters than Mort/Katja's or Eddrin's.

 

On the crazy stuff going on with animals at the end.  I tried to make it pretty overwhelming, to make it easier to kind of sink into Taras' viewpoint, as he's both injured and potentially hallucinating.  Doesn't seem to have worked for you as well as I intended.  Just came off as confusing. 

 

Thanks again for taking the time to read.  Hearing what people think about each chapter helps motivate me to keep pushing forward with the first draft, hopefully improving as I go.  I'm uncertain on whether to keep submitting weekly, as it's at least two chapters before we get to a chapter that has feedback implemented and I don't want to burn everyone out.  I guess we'll see how things play out.  

Edited by Sprouts
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I'm going to try and review as I read, so let me know if it comes off as too nitpicky or something! If you don't like it I'll go back to more general reviews that come after having read the entire piece.

 

 

page 1- The large looming pillar is something I do not remember being in is surroundings in chapter 1. Took me a second to guess that the 'faint groove' was likely the edge of a rock in the river bed, I think? 

 

page 2- I hadn't known Alph had started chewing 'visaya leaves' so 'still' made me think I missed something earlier on. There's a pattern emerging of Taras' altered view of his experiences.[period] Reality[period] i.e. " Little hands grabbed at him and pulled him downstream. The current"

 

page 4- not really a problem; You mentioned hooves here which is great since I couldn't remember what Alph was, so maybe add something like this(more than just "muzzle", lots of animals have muzzles) up where alph first comes in so I know he's a horse.

 

page 6- seems odd that he would waste time getting meat while also thinking of how not returning by sundown meant death.

 

page 8- To the best of my knowledge visaya bushes are not real, but spruce trees are. I guess it's technically fine, but it makes me take a step away from the story for a second and wonder how an Earth tree ended up with this strange bush.

 

page 10-12- The rapid switching of Taras' viewing the hunt from the eyes of the hunters and prey was cool yet confusing. I think the best way to treat the scene is almost as if it were dialogue. I would have a new paragraph each time you switched from wolf, to bruskil, or to Taras himself, and make sure it is evident whose eyes Taras is currently seeing through in the very beginning of each paragraph. Just a suggestion though.

 

page 12- I'm a little confused with all this Kessel/Melor and stones stuff. Also I think it would be hard to see through a mask with diamonds for eyes.

 

page 13- “Well. We’ll just get you bandaged up. Some medicine. Then off to Ottavo.” I thought they were going to Athalin?

 

 

 

All in all it wasn't too shabby. Really intrigued with the magic displayed by the hand and by Taras, and I'm looking forward to learning how it all works!   

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I liked what you did here, much better tension and conflict around Taras, who is clearly in real peril through these chapters. I had some specific issues, noted above, but happy with the overall effect and content. The ending with him being so close to home was a nice (frustrating!) touch.

Picking up on a couple of comments, what Mandamon says about quantity of description is part of what I was saying out precision in phrasing and cutting unnecessary stuff, at least that's what I was trying to get at.

Also, I note your point about Alph being a small mule, that would mean that Taras walked all the way out here. Surely if he's hunting a dangerous beast, or there are large numbers of wolves, that's pretty reckless, and just sheer bad planning, not to mention risk management. Anyway, here are my detailed comments.

Big step to change the names, but if you don't do it near the start it would only get harder, probably. Brave move, i think it's a positive.

I felt the description of the hair sticking (frozen, I guess) to the stone was a bit awkward.

His memory was "full of holes"?

I'm not really clear on where this groove is that he's pulling on. I guess on the rock under him?

I was going to complain that I doubted he could do what he did until it became clear that it wasn't his rib!! Still, with a horn sticking in him, I can't see him being able to "throw" himself up to his feet. I like the feel of the scene though. He's obviously in considerable difficulty, life threatening, but he isn't panicking.

Don't get about why he needs to stock up on water if the river is high/full?

I like Taras talking to Alph, it's very evocative of the lone hunter, always isolated, and I think it throws his predicament into sharp relief, like he's talking through his intentions to convince himself he has a way out, that he might survive.

Impressions on reaching end of Chapter 4. I'm enjoying Taras's struggles against the wilderness in his depleted state. It feels more tense than the first chapter with him hunting, as there was little impression of tension or jeopardy then, I thought. For me, some of the phrasing and narrative is a bit baggy and could be tightened up/ cutting down.

You don't need to say "descend down", it's pretty much the only way to descend! This is the sort of phrasing issue I was talking about. Also, using the phrase "blob of ache" reduces his pain to a comical thing. Blob is not a serious word.

His knees didn't gasp, suggest rephrasing. Also, later, since his grammar has be reasonable up to now, I'll point out "I must have EATEN the last of..."

"Melor and HE had often..."

Why does he ride Alph? It's been bugging me for a while.

I find it hard to believe he can run, when he could barely stand before. Also, he must have lost a ton of blood and yet he hasn't passed out. I know this is suspension of disbelief territory, but Brandon does say you have to earn it and not stretch it too far.

It's not steam, it's water vapour. I think there's a line between artistic license and stuff that just ain't right. If it was me, I'd say breath like steam, or some such.

Nice touch deliberately confusing the bruskil and the human sacrifices, Taras's assumption with the reality of the Hand's intentions.

The so-called "hallucination" scene was working well for me, but as I got further into it, I felt it became a bit confusing. For example I don't understand the context of the references to Melor.

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fyi I got buried in work and haven't had a chance to review. I will when I can dig out. :/

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Ok just got through chapter 4, will review 5 in a moment.

 

So 4 is a great chapter. Congratulations. :) You manage to keep up the tension through 95% of it very effectively (I'll address the 5% in a second). The few things I have are mostly nitpicks or word-smithing stuff. I'll mention them and you can address or ignore as it is just my opinion.

 

Sunlight pierced Taras’s eyelids

 

 

Sunlight pierced his eyelids.

 

Feeling slowly slunk back into him. 

Perhaps 'slipped' or 'seeped' or another word. Slunk is past tense of slink, and also slink/slunk evokes stealth. Also perhaps it should be 'into his legs' or other 1st person specific.

 

 

The world spun in circles around him. Taunting.

 

Lose, change or explain taunting. ie Taunting him with what? (ie. barely seen shapes) but you can probably just lose it.

 

 

 

Little hands grabbed at him and pulled him downstream

 

Lose little hands or rewrite the sentence as it is momentarily confusing ie. "the water pulled at him like little hands, tugging him downstream

 

 

His throat hurt.  Great.  Practically everything hurts. 

I'd lose 'Great'  and 'Practically' and just leave 'everything hurt'

 

 

Mistha’s soft voice echoed through his head

through his mind or through his memory perhaps?

 

 

a glimpse of their inner desires, their dreams, before killing them.

I'd lose 'their dreams' in this case 'their inner desires' is enough

 

 

Maybe even if. 

maybe even if I do.

 

Starting in this area - perhaps a little before and a little after- is where the 5% I mentioned at the start applies. The tension is slacking a little for me. It is mostly because he is doing the stuff but the sense of peril has receded a little. You mentioned that the venom might show him his inner desires, or induce hallucinations. You might use after he falls into the stream 'ie as he stood the world bent. On the bank a huge beast munched fire ... no wait, that was Alph. The venom was starting to take effect. There was a circle of darkness around the edges of his vision, as if he was looking at the world through a hole in a dirty rag. And he was getting chilled from the water. Great. "

 

You don't have to use this, I'm just trying to illustrate the point of tension.

 

I'll try to fight off the others waiting on the computer and do chapter 5 now. :)

 

Awesome job.

Edited by stormweasel
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I can see you did that 5% stuff in chapter 5 so good - you just may want to begin hinting at it in the 5% section I mention above to avoid any lag.

Edited by stormweasel
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Ok, well I like 5 as well. This is good stuff. I think as I read this

 

 

Valley caravan’s were more common at this time of the year.  Most were troupes of performers not qualified for participating in Athalin’s celebrations.  Regardless of their quality, Taras had fond memories of watching their performances about wars over the mountains when he was younger.  Melor and him had often re­enacted the battles afterwards, using little sticks for swords.

 

that the little problem in parts of this is that some of the moments have too much clarity? Not sure I am explaining it well but I'd just reread each line and make sure that any description, from outside Taras is minimal and does not dilute the tension (does he really need to know about what's in the quote at this moment of struggle? and if so, how much of it? Keep it lean and mean until he is at a point to think clearly. If you need the Melor reference for later, then perhaps you can have him hallucinate. 'Taras could see Melor running beside him but wait... Melor wasn't a kid anymore. Still, he swung his stick at Melor and they battled as they reenacted the great battles, laughing and ...' Hope that clarifies. Might be best to see as much as possible through his eyes as you do the wolves later. Especially since as he hallucinates and comes under the effect of the poison he is less aware of the real world outside, so stepping to a PoV or descriptive text outside of him waters down the effect.

 

I think you have a great write in the works here. Thumbs up.

Edited by stormweasel
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First off, thanks for reading and critiquing guys!  Sorry I'm a bit late in responding.

 

Lerroy, Robinski :

 

page 1- The large looming pillar is something I do not remember being in is surroundings in chapter 1. Took me a second to guess that the 'faint groove' was likely the edge of a rock in the river bed, I think? 

 

page 6- seems odd that he would waste time getting meat while also thinking of how not returning by sundown meant death.

 

page 8- To the best of my knowledge visaya bushes are not real, but spruce trees are. I guess it's technically fine, but it makes me take a step away from the story for a second and wonder how an Earth tree ended up with this strange bush.

 

page 10-12- The rapid switching of Taras' viewing the hunt from the eyes of the hunters and prey was cool yet confusing. I think the best way to treat the scene is almost as if it were dialogue. I would have a new paragraph each time you switched from wolf, to bruskil, or to Taras himself, and make sure it is evident whose eyes Taras is currently seeing through in the very beginning of each paragraph. Just a suggestion though.

 

page 12- I'm a little confused with all this Kessel/Melor and stones stuff. Also I think it would be hard to see through a mask with diamonds for eyes.

 

page 13- “Well. We’ll just get you bandaged up. Some medicine. Then off to Ottavo.” I thought they were going to Athalin?

 

Also, I note your point about Alph being a small mule, that would mean that Taras walked all the way out here. Surely if he's hunting a dangerous beast, or there are large numbers of wolves, that's pretty reckless, and just sheer bad planning, not to mention risk management. Anyway, here are my detailed comments.

I'm not really clear on where this groove is that he's pulling on. I guess on the rock under him?

Why does he ride Alph? It's been bugging me for a while.

I find it hard to believe he can run, when he could barely stand before. Also, he must have lost a ton of blood and yet he hasn't passed out. I know this is suspension of disbelief territory, but Brandon does say you have to earn it and not stretch it too far.

The so-called "hallucination" scene was working well for me, but as I got further into it, I felt it became a bit confusing. For example I don't understand the context of the references to Melor.

 

I tried to pick out some of the things both of you mentioned.  Him not being prepared for being injured and not being able to ride Alph is less of bad planning on Taras' part and more of an oversight on my part  :o.  Most of the other things seem to tie into me knowing more than the reader and not explaining myself properly.  I'll make sure to keep your comments handy during revisions.  

 

Stormweasel:

 

Thanks for such a detailed critique.  I always enjoy getting some tips on how to repair loose sentences.  It acts as an effective boost to my own wordsmithing imagination.  I like your suggestion about showing rather than telling when I'm describing what the performing troupe brings to Taras' mind.  I'll try to implement something similar to that.  Instead of addressing your points one by one I'll just keep them close at hand for revisions.  Thanks again!

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