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Majestic Fox

Reading Excuses - 2015/04/05 - The Green Ocean, Chapter One (2,950 words)

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This is the first chapter an epic fantasy I've been prewriting a while now. 


I have stubborn internal editor. The biggest danger for me is excessive rewriting. I need schedule pressure, otherwise things just don't get finished. Hoping that Reading Excuses will help with this.


Aside from general feedback, it would be useful to know what you predict will happen next in the story.


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Wow. Just wow. I absolutely loved it.

Your characterization is subtle, but effective. Each of them distinct. There was so much unspoken history evident in so few words. I really enjoyed the touch of Willow's thoughts interjecting into a line of her dialogue. which you used a few times to good effect. The prose flowed so well I don't think there was ever a moment where I was jarred out of the scene.


[spoilers now]


As far as my predictions, I'm damnation interested to learn what happened to Willow when she tried to crush the bug. Because it kept squirming, I wonder if she has some sort of healing ability.

I have a hard time disliking Sabina. It seemed like she was just trying too hard to be unlikable. I know that she's meant to come off as a bully, but I'm a huge fan of characters who "grow up" and away from your first impressions. Those journeys have to be tough; they have to earn their happy ending, as it were. That's what makes them so much fun to read, though. So I'll be quietly rooting for her to become a supporting character instead of an antagonist :P


The giants attacking . . . I know inspiration is a varied and wild thing, but I couldn't help picturing Attack on Titan. Which, for me at least, drew me in further. I'm really curious to see what;s going on there. Are they savage? Are they misunderstood? What changed to cause their attacks?


Perhaps the giants and Scripture are tied, somehow. Maybe the Guardians' abilities brought them about? What if a Guardian had the ability to control them? Just my speculation . . .


Some very minor things I noticed:

On the third page, "none were than the threat the footprint spoke of."

Same page, "The folk on wall were busy lighting the fires" - That's the name of my new fantasy race, the Fol'kon. ;) (Get it? Like, "that's the name of my new band" . . . ok.)

Same page, "Old folk were herding children toward mine"


Please, by all means, carry on. I can't wait to read more.

Edited by supersoup

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- Oooooh. I really like the opening question. Why did this thing not attack? What were its intentions?


- Good job really internalizing Willow's inner conflict throughout the scene.


- I like the religious framework in the village.I just hope we see how it fits into the world as a whole. On that note, "sin" and "Scripture" have a lot of Judeo-Christian resonance. I'm guessing that's what you are going for since giants appear in the story of David as well as in some apocryphal sources. I'd be cautious if this is intended to be an original religion though, since you might confuse the audience using familiar concepts. 


- All and all, I think you have the beginnings of a really good story here. Willow seems like a very human character. Her actions make sense, even if we know it will cause conflicts later down the line. I really want to see more of her search for her identity and the source of her abilities. 

Edited by rdpulfer

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First off, notes I made while reading:


pg 1: "An icy current surged up from Willow's stomach, rippling over her skin."

The opening line is a little strange.  I thought at first you meant she was in water, with the icy current.


pg 2: I'm interested in who/what made the footprint, and why it's a source of fear.


pg 3: "more afoot"

-haha.  Not sure if that's meant to be a pun...

Also not sure yet why Willow didn't just tell them about the footprint.  There's not a good reason yet for her not to.


pg 3: Ok, giants.  You answered my question a few sentences later.


pg 3: "Old folk were herding children toward mine while men and women ran across the dusty courtyard"

--missing word?


pg 3: "Willow feigned confusion, but her body rang out a warning."

Something seemed off with this line.  You've done something similar in a couple other places.  The line is very generic.  What warning and how did her body show it?


pg 5: after the break, I thought you went into Olga's POV for a few lines, especially with "but for Olga it seemed as if a new heaviness were pressing down her."  Then you go back to Willow's POV.


pg 5: "turned to find her stood"



pg 6: "vibrating through whole body until"

--missing a word.  This whole paragraph has some awkward sentences. 


pg 7: Olga's sympathy is very sudden.  You have Willow thinking she's a stern, strong woman, and then she's crying and making promises.  I'm not sure the reason why.



As the others said, this is a very solid start.  There's obviously a lot of history around the giants.  To not be able to even touch a footprint is pretty extreme, so I'm wondering what history is involved.  It's a good hook.  The religion, magic, and giants are connected in some way, so I'm interested to see how.  I'm guessing part of this will be the traditional apprentice/master dynamic with Olga and Willow, but without yet knowing anything about the magic, I can't guess much further than that.  You mention briefly that Olga can defend the village with gift, but that could happen in many ways.


Your characters are also good, but might be extreme in some cases?  Willow often lies and then thinks better of it.  It's a solid personality trait, but once she says something, it's as if she can never change it.  Is there some other reason for this?  I didn't see one so far. It seems excessive.


Finally, there's a few places where you have some odd word choices when writing:

"foul scar running onto her face"

"A dull crack split through her jaw"

"An icy current surged up from Willow's stomach"


But overall, well written.  I look forward to reading more.

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First off, let me just say that this is extremely well written. Seriously. There were a handful of typos and missing words, but hopefully you can catch those on another pass. 


-"She span toward the voice". Maybe "spun"?


-I love the line "Willow could see the question appear in the lines on his face". Since I'm constantly harping on people's POV usage, this struck me as a really slick way of keeping this line in Willow's point of view. It really made it feel like I was seeing him through her eyes.


-I agree that the very first line is a little too metaphorical for an opening line. It's a bit disorienting. 


-I also noticed the "afoot" pun. I smirked to myself when I read it, even though I knew it was unintentional. Still, Mandamon and I will not be the only ones to notice it, I can guarantee that.


-I agree with Mandamon that the first few lines after the scene break imply that we have switched to Olga's POV. When I reread that first paragraph, I realized that you don't actually switch, and everything in there can still be seen as being from Willow's POV. On the first read-through, however, it's confusing.


-I actually really like the religious tone. When I first saw the word "sin" I thought it added some nice depth to the world building and to Willow's character. I also like that you didn't explain why she said it. I can see how it has Judeo-Christian connotations, but in this setting I assumed that it was referring to an in-world religion. This hints at some strong character motivations and makes me want to know what the religion is and how Willow feels about it. Is she devout? Questioning? Does the fear of sin play a major role in their society or just her as a character? All really interesting questions.


As far as predictions go, I think that it's likely Willow will discover exactly what it is that makes her different from the others, and it will become her greatest asset in the coming conflict with the giants. This "gift" will probably have to do with her birthplace, and how she was mysteriously left in the village as a baby. Olga will be her mentor and teach her about her lineage, nurturing this gift and helping her come to terms with the fact that she must be the hero.


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Thanks for the feedback everyone. I really appreciate it. 


For me, writing often is not all that fun. It's difficult and I can give myself a hard time, so your encouragement is really helpful. 

Honestly speaking, I probably put a bit too much effort into lifting the quality of writing, partly because I knew it was going to be read by you guys. I don't think this is a good practice for a first draft, since I might end up axing large swaths of the story. For future submission I'll try not to spend so much time on making it read well. 


Out of interest, what are your thoughts on this? Do you struggle with the same thing? I know soupersoup is battling a tendency to get lost in reams of description.


Thanks again. 


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I've said this in some of the other reviews, but I tend to review what I wrote the previous time when starting a writing session, make any minor edits to word choice, and look for typos.  Then I'm also into the writing groove.


Before I submit here, I'll read through that entry again, and make any other corrections I notice.  I don't do any major editing, though.  For that, I wait until I've finished the whole novel, as invariably, the characters and worldbuilding will develop through the story.  Then I'll bring the early chapters in line with the final product.  Any more revision (unless something is majorly wrong halfway through) is sort of a waste of time, to me.


Some of the things I add in the first round of revision are more description, taking out unneeded sections, and adding sensory perceptions, as I'm bad at doing that the first time around.


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Detailed comments below on reading, however in general I enjoyed this a good deal. I have a few quibbles, but easily addressed, or not, depending on your view of them.


You have an easy style that pulls the reader along. I'm firmly of the view that it makes a big difference to a submission to polish the language and polish it again before submitting. I think editors and agents will judge a writer by the ease of the prose first of all, or as a major part. Judging from what the WE crew have said, many submission will probably but put down very quickly if the style / language is not easy to read. Long ramble, sorry, but my point is I think you have a style that makes the writing almost invisible, which is a good thing.


There was enough happening in this first chapter to engage me. There is conflict external to the village, within the village and, to some extent, within Willow – all good. There is also the promise of magical ability without explanation, which is fine, we look forward to the reveal and learning more.


Good job – I look forward to reading the next bit!




I like the opening paragraphs, I'm intrigued with what’s happening and the character is engaging so far, for her curiosity in the face of fear. One thing that I didn’t get was how big the footprint it. She seems to see it from a certain distance away and from out in the open, with the footprint being in the shadow of the trees? My impression was that it is pretty big.


Early on the next page, we have a minor conflict with the other characters, which is good. I also like the subtlety in Willow’s assessment of Violet. Willow seems to be a clever cookie.


“Violet was standing very still” or “Violet stood very still”.


I like the reactions to the footprint, but I don’t understand its significance yet. The significance is clearly huge, because Symon has abandoned the deer and no one else has questioned that. This seems a bit off though, since Willow was going to say nothing about it, so if it’s such a big threat it seems to paint her in a bad light in relation to the rest of the village.


“none were was greater


“assaults” struck me as an interesting word. It sounds like a military engagement, not just an attack by a wild beast.


I like the tension in all the people running back to the village. It’s a great technique, hinting at a threat that might be about to appear, but nobody quite knows, but believes the threat is imminent. From the speed that this is happening, I presume someone else has called a warning. Otherwise, it seems as if the people were running from the fields before Symon’s warning has time to reach them.


“children toward the mine”


Two prints? Only one is mentioned up to this point.


There are a lot of names sprayed about. We’re only on Page 3 (page numbers off, btw) and I'm starting to lose track. Willow, Symon, Violet – no problem. Olga has a tag with the frost and Armand who waved them in, but I think Jerris, Kline and Karin are too much to absorb at this point. Because they have names, I feel that I'm supposed to note and remember them, but I have nothing to recognise them by. Then again, maybe it makes the reader feel more disoriented, not a bad thing in this somewhat panicked situation


Interesting to hear the word ‘sin’. So, there’s a religious aspect, or Vi is a religious person at least.


I think self-righteous should be hyphenated, and – ouch! That’s quite the stinger. I'm trying to decide if it’s stronger than bitch. It came a bit from leftfield, as Willow has seemed quite timid so far, or certainly withdrawn, but okay, I can go with it. There’s a decent conflict building between Willow and Symon+Violet.


“Willow stood motionless” illustrates a minor bugbear of mine. To me, if she’s standing, she’s motionless, so it’s like saying the same thing twice. On one hand, “motionless” seems redundant to me, on the other, it’s emphasising the point. Dunno, I'm conflicted.


You’ve got some long paragraphs going on. I feel as if some of them could be split up a bit to present less of a wall of text.


It seems quite early to have another POV when we’re not quite familiar with Willow, but I can understand you wanting to open up the ‘magic’ to the reader, hence Olga’s appearance. Ah, but I thought we were in Olga’s POV, but seems it’s still Willow – I think there’s an issue in that first paragraph.


Ester and Sabina – are they totally new or mentioned in passing before. I'm losing track of the characters and, for me, the more you introduce this early, the more it dilutes the stronger secondary characters like Symon and Violet. It’s a good encounter, her crushing the bug is effective, you can see it coming, but still effective, but I can’t distinguish between Olga, Ester and Sabina.


A thought plagued the edges of her mind” – over-elaborate, for me.


Ha-ha, ‘The owls are not what they seem.’


‘She had been a child when it happened...’


I found it a bit disorienting, Willow thinking of Olga in the past then being addressed by her in the present, without any real demarcation between them.


“a woman grown” sounds odd – why not “a grown woman”?


‘Desecrate’ seems a strong word. I felt like ‘spoil’ or ‘sully’ would have been strong enough. It’s a superlative arms race. The bigger you go with smaller things, the fewer places you have to go with the really big ones.


Promise me you’ll become the woman I know you are.” This was a bit vague and melodramatic, to me. I felt as if it doesn’t really say much, and is actually quite impersonal.


pulled shut the yew wood door” – is complex and distracting from the important thing here. I think this line would be much more effective if it was simpler, concentrated on the look on Olga’s face.


Given the prior references to Olga, I think “She Willow lay there in the darkness” would be better, just to make sure the reader is thinking about Willow at this point.


It’s a nice end to the chapter, a bit of drama, giving the reader something to ponder going forward, rather than withholding something as a cliff-hanger (per my comment on another submission this week).


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This is really cool. I like how you play with your words while describing the reflections on the water. I really like your characters, mainly Willow and Olga.


Willow's thought processes are a nice touch as she thinks about making her lies seem like truth. That tells the most about her background.


Was the thought 'And you were supposed to go with her' in reference to Symon or Willow? After reading a bit more, it seems obvious that 'you' is referring to Willow, but I tripped over it a bit the first time through.


My favorite part is how you depict the beetles working together and the implications of what is ruined by Sabina. If you hadn't included the beetle scene and just jumped to squashing and Willow feeling bad, it wouldn't have been as powerful. Well done.


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I have been away in the wonderful world of finals and exams for the past months, and I'm glad to see another talented aspiring writer joining the forum! Though after reading your work and skimming everyone's reviews I would say you're not so much "aspiring", but more of a professional! Mirroring what everyone else seemed to be saying; you have an easy to read style that allowed me to forget I that was reading and just experience the story. I'm going to try something new and tell you what I see as I'm reading, and I do have some things to say/ask after I'm done, so here it goes:


As far as setting goes I get the feel of Robin Hood in both location(plains dotted with rocks, and ancient dark and damp forests) and level of tech(bows, walled villages, etc).


willow: i don't know much about her appearance wise. So far, in my mind, she is(a girl obviously) 19~20ish years old, and that's about it 


characterization: I'm going to go ahead and tell you what I'm guessing these people's personalities are going to turn out to be

willow- guessing shes going to be fairly typical protagonist; caring, empathetic, strong moral compass etc...

Olga- stoic but still caring, guessing she is going to be willow's mentor  

Sabrina- Not sure if she is actually a bad person, or if she is just supposed to contrast Willow

the rest: not to much interaction with other characters, most just do what they are expected to do


in general I feel the description of all the visuals is vague, which isn't a problem unless you decide to explain them after the first couple of chapters which I would find jarring. I think most people do a pretty good job of filling in the gaps themselves, so as long as you don't mess with their imaginations after they've cemented the image of the characters/setting.


the only other thing I want to point out is that every once in awhile you use an odd phrase like "Someone was sat beside it,..."(pg5) where I don't know if it is necessarily wrong, nor do I know if you are using them stylistically, but for me it kind interrupts the flow of the story.


other than those(relatively, very small) critiques, I really enjoyed this! You did a great job of characterizing Willow from the gun, same with Sabrina and Olga, and all without making it seemed forced which is awesome. I think I am going to really enjoy this, and anything else you may submit! keep writing!!!!


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Welcome back, Lerroy! Good to read you. Hope your exams went well.


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Thank you Lerroy.


Hope your exams went well. 


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