FormlessFox

Reading Excuses - 2/1/16 - FormlessFox - Death of Despair - 4,854 Words (V, L, S)

11 posts in this topic

Hello,

 
I am so grateful for all of your help! This is my first submission to the group and I am very excited/nervous. My goal with this chapter was to dive into the action while revealing info about the world/magic to be elaborated in later chapters.  I wrote the outline without knowing what kind of magic I wanted to use... so its kind of growing as I write. In addition to your normal feedback of what confused, interested or amused you if you could please comment on:
 
Writing/formatting/grammar:
-I read a lot but have little knowledge regarding what is the "right way" to write.  I apologize for any glaring mistakes and would appreciate your feedback.
 
Infodump:
-Too much info? Not enough?  What did you not understand? What do you wish there was more info on?
 
Characters:
-First impressions of Andrinal? Dirk?
 
Action:
- Were you entertained? (ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? -Andrinal doing best Russel Crowe impression)
 
Magic:
-Did it strike you as interesting or ehhh?
-Anything leave you saying aww come on?  Anything you wished I did?
 
Again so happy to be a part of this group and thank you so much!
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Welcome to Reading Excuses! You'll love it here :)

 

I like the setting, the characters and certain aspects of the story. I'm curious to where the tale leads. I like your descriptions of the non-human characters, particularly Elias, and I think your emotion-based magic is a refreshing take on things. 

 

To answer your questions:

 

- I thought there was a little too much information at the start. My biggest issue was all of the titles and names you were throwing around without much explanation. Things like SoulBurner and BrightLord made sense eventually, while others like SlaveBaron were self-explanatory, but I found there were too many (I'm guilty of this myself, actually). The way I prefer to do it is explain the title before giving the final name drop; explain, for example, that the BrightLord fed off positive emotions to power his magic and THEN reveal the title. It's my personal preference, but I think it works.

- I also thought a lot of the backstory actually slowed down the action. In combat it can come across as a bit Narm-y if the protagonist is navel gazing right before he's about to "die." I'd recommend setting this aside and using it later, because it is interesting. It just felt out of place.

 

- The characters were good; I liked the yin-yang aspect of Andrinal and Dirk's personalities, and how this fed into their magic. I did feel that Dirk could have been more positive, rather than mocking, especially since you set up Andrinal as this badass Breaker of Men. You may have been going for a Puck-like character (from Midsummer Night's Dream), but to me it seemed more like this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BullyingADragon(yes I use a lot of TV Tropes references in my comments :P).

- I look forward to seeing some hidden depths in the characters (which you hinted at in his final confrontation with Elias) but be wary of the standard Dark and Troubled Past trope; I'm guilty of this too and I do believe it has been done to death, though it is justified if it feeds into your magic system. There are ways you can put a refreshing spin on it; what I'm trying to do is go for a more Sad Clown vibe, where the main character cracks jokes to hide his pain. 

 

- I thought the action sequences were really good; I liked your vivid descriptions and could really imagine what was happening. Again, though, be wary of Narm with Andrinal's "DON'T SHOW ME HER" moment. I think the all-caps lock may contribute to this, but it came of as a little silly.

 

- I love the hints of magic you gave, and am curious to see what the full extent of Andrinal's (and Dirk's) powers are. I think that an emotion-based magic system is not something that's been done a lot (as far as I know), and can be very effective at providing a visualisation of a character's emotions. 

 

All in all, an enjoyable read. A few things that could do with some editing here and there, but I look forward to reading on 

 

Keep writing :)

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Welcome to Reading Excuses!  I'll dive right in...

 

Lots of violence isn't my thing, but that's personal preference.  My main issue was lots of big blocks of text, a bunch of infodumping at the beginning, and then a big battle where I don't have an attachment to any of the parties.  this means I end up not caring which side wins.

 

You have some pretty graphic description of the atrocities of the people Andinal is fighting, but those on his side are pretty bad too.  Even with all the infodumped information (which is more about the world and less about the characters) I don't know anyone's motivations, which makes me less interested in the outcome.

 

 

Pg 1: He might not care about hammering his arm off, but at some point the loss of blood will make him slow down, if nothing else.  Or will the wound close off?

 

pg 2: second paragraph starts out about the opposing army, and then transforms in the middle to a sort of confusing and rambling tale about Andrinal's upbringing.  It might be good to reorder this information.

 

pg 3/4: I dont' really feel anything for Andrinal.  He's very overpowered.  I'm also not sure what age Dirk is supposed to be.  Andrinal regards him as a younger boy, but Dirk seems much more world-wise than a child would be.

--you later say he's 16.  He still feels too mature for this age, to me.

 

pg 5: ok--I guess Dirk was trying to make him angry?  Don't really understand why that powers Andrinal up.

--you explain this later, but I was confused as to the emotional aspect of the magic before this.

 

From here on, this is mainly a big description of a battle.  I honestly wasn't too into it, as I don't know the reasons for any of the fighting.  Andrinal's a slave of some sort, and his disdain for everyone else comes through.  Why should I be caring about any of these characters?

 

pg 10:  wait...why did he kill his own horse?

 

 

Overall I would rather have some information on why people are doing what they're doing before jumping into the battle.  I think this does have potential for the magic system, but I need a much better connection to the characters.
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P1 - If there's a more efficient way to remove an arm, it should use less energy, no?

P9 - He jumps close to the soldiers where he states that their weapons are useless, but then he proceeds to take those same weapons and effectively wield them back at them at the same range.

P10 - Hot metal becomes softer. Is there some other effect, like enhanced strength, that allows the spear to pass so easily through armor? if so, it should be stated here.

 

There's an awful lot of backstory, mostly in the first three pages but also sprinkled throughout. As interesting as the ideas might be, it loses something for a story this short. It reads like a history text, and I often found myself skimming.

 

I'm not sure who Elias was supposed to be, but he sort of comes out of nowhere at the end.

 

I think I can toss most of my general thoughts into answering your questions

 

Writing/formatting/grammar:
-I read a lot but have little knowledge regarding what is the "right way" to write.  I apologize for any glaring mistakes and would appreciate your feedback.
   - I didn't flag line edits, but even without fixing typos there are some things you can change. The first thing you could do to improve the readability is to cut down the size of the paragraphs. Some of them take up almost a whole page and encompass a dozen different thoughts and actions. Splitting those up would improve the pacing. if you do want to focus on the language element, I'll pay more attention in the future to note the things I think are off.
 
Infodump:
-Too much info? Not enough?  What did you not understand? What do you wish there was more info on?
   - So much infodump, and despite it all I still don't have a solid understanding of why the main character feels such a weight on his shoulders that he wants to die, I have no idea how widespread the use of magic is, and I have no idea why this war is being fought in the first place. If you're going to dump information, make sure it's relevant to the action at hand, or cut it out or save it for a quieter scene.
 
Characters:
-First impressions of Andrinal? Dirk?
   - Andrinal seemed overly-competent until I realized that that was his thing, being magically built up and all. Dirk was annoying until I realized that his attitude was a function of the way he wielded magic, and then it was less bad, and it came close to being an interesting quirk in the relationship between the two but I think it could have been played up more, especially since Andrinal must know that Dirk being Dirk helps him be himself.
 
Action:
- Were you entertained? (ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? -Andrinal doing best Russel Crowe impression)
   - I'd say no. There are some interesting concepts here, but the execution leaves me wanting. Mostly because I'm not sure I ever got enough of a feel for why people were doing what they were doing and why it mattered. Action is entertaining when it's a struggle for someone to get what they want, and in this story Andrinal isn't very interesting as a person, despite his interesting abilities. Even the conclusion, where Andrinal apparently gets what he wants in death, we get no idea of how he feels about it, we just get this giant monster killing and eating a wizard which normally SHOULD BE REALLY COOL but it came out of nowhere and didn't do anything for the plot. At that point Andrinal had already been mortally wounded so I didn't see why it mattered that Elias showed up to take down the wizard or not.
 
Magic:
-Did it strike you as interesting or ehhh?
-Anything leave you saying aww come on?  Anything you wished I did?
   - I suppose it's interesting as a premise, fueling powers with different emotions, but I'm not sure I got enough of a sense of why the effects were different or what the limits are. You had these despair mages which can make people... despair. And then you have Andrinal whose rage heats metal and turns horses into slag and I'm not sure why that should be. He doesn't ever seem to get weaker doing what he does and I wonder why, if he can slag a horse, he doesn't just slag the entire army, because he seems to be able to do it at a distance, or did I miss something?
 
 

Is this supposed to be a standalone story or a part of a longer work?

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Hello thanks for the comments!

 

I apologize that the story fell flat I tried to accomplish too much and hoped the action would make up for it.  A lot of the info dump is the result of a huge outline and this being the first words im putting to the page.  I realize now that I was sooo desperate to make things concrete that I wanted to throw them in so I could say ok thats in, ok thats in, ok thats in and just write.  I random name dropped a lot of important people/events etc which was a big mistake.

 

To clarify some things:

 

P1 - If there's a more efficient way to remove an arm, it should use less energy, no?

-I realized looking back he could have just burned the shield and then cauterized the wound against it and added this line in.  Doesn't really make sense honestly will probably have him use his powers right then and introduce the anger magic right away

 

P9 - He jumps close to the soldiers where he states that their weapons are useless, but then he proceeds to take those same weapons and effectively wield them back at them at the same range.

-very good point, i guess he should break off the tip or burn and snap it off

 

P10 - Hot metal becomes softer. Is there some other effect, like enhanced strength, that allows the spear to pass so easily through armor? if so, it should be stated here.

-I did not really think about the science behind it I assumed it would cut through armor like butter.  Is that not how it would happen?  Should the speartip turn liquid and fall between the cracks of his armor becoming a hot metal puddle on impact?

 

If he can slag a horse, he doesn't just slag the entire army, because he seems to be able to do it at a distance, or did I miss something?

-He can fling droplets close by its more lava based so I pictured it like a guy throwing mud around that is on fire.  So more a fling of droplets is what I pictured.

 

  

Moving forward:

 

I started a document called Info Dumpster to transfer the irrelevant plot points for a later time and only keep in the events/people that Andrinal feels strongly about and reveals something about him/immediate events.  I may need a chapter before this to really explain despair magic and why they are so dominant.  Realistically I may have to Stormlight this bad boy and freewrite a PoV for each type of magic user to flesh it all out.

 

Again thank you so much I really need to think about the most important information for the reader to know to keep them interested in finding out the rest.  I was hoping the action would do that but there was just too much clunk.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing that the guys have already elaborated so much, I'll just state my three major concerns:

- Huge paragraphs.

- You plunged us into a fight we have no attachment to, so I didn't care who won or lost and didn't really relate to Andrinal's wish of death.

- Elias (which is very close to my name Elyes) coming out of no where with no prior introduction and just before the story ended felt too sudden and abrupt to me.

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Hi! Welcome to Reading Excuses!

 

- I feel like the first line needs a little word. Maybe show he's emotionless rather than tell us he's emotionless. That said, I like the imagery that follows. 

 

- The paragraphs, as others have noticed, are really long.

 

- I like the interplay between Dirk and Andri.

 

- I like the idea of a BrightLord actually being kind of annoying due to the nature of his power source.

 

- Overall, in spit of the grimness of the tale, I wouldn't mind seeing more of this worlds and characters. 

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Welcome to Reading Excuses. It’s always good to have fresh submitters to read. Don’t be nervous, we’re all very soft and fluffy really. Just as a note, I always read the submission before I read the post, so if I haven’t answered anything, I’ll come back to it after posting my comments, then reading the thread. Also, I tend to go on a bit, sorry.

 

Detailed comments below the line, however in summary, there were some nice touches and lines in your story, and I found the style easy to read, solid without being spectacular. [Going back to your post, I see it is a first chapter. I would suggest flagging it as such, since my comments are based on it being a short piece – which I gradually realise on the way through that it is not!]

 

One thing I found confusing was the blocking of the battlefield. I didn’t really know what was going on and Andri seems to be able to walk around without being attacked, which I thought was odd. There is a long conversation between Andri and Dirk, but what is the enemy doing? You mention them reforming once at the beginning, but I think that could be flagged more throughout.

 

Elias Vertner” – I was troubled by the character Elias having a wolf association. Have you read Wheel of Time?

 

The end leaves me a bit confused. I was presuming throughout that this was a short story, rather than the start of a novel. [Corrected now! Ed.]

 

Overall, I enjoyed the piece. I think it’s a bit wordy and repetitive in places, going over the same thought more than once, but with a good, harsh editing pass, I think you can wield the knife and have a tight and visceral battle scene. Main points of confusing, the blocking of the battlefield and the references to Dirk – is it a name or a title? Good work!

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

He had lost sight of the boy some time ago

 

Andri had never wanted a Dirk” – Is Dirk the boy? I think it’s unclear referring to him in this way when we haven’t met him. It’s really getting at ‘a boy like Dirk’, I suppose.

 

brought it down with crushing swiftness” – I found this strange. A hammer is a crushing weapon so, for the swiftness to be crushing as well seemed like repetition.

 

I like the section where he removes the arm, and the reference to his being rebuilt many times, but again, it feels like the description is covering some of the same ground as just been discussed.

 

What is the point of picking a defensible position if the goal is to die?” – tense confusion here – you go from past to present.

 

It was an amusing conversation for a man so hard to kill to have with himself” – I would be wary about telling the reader what is amusing, that’s for the reader to decide, but I take it you mean that ‘Andri found it amusing...’

 

Andri still carried himself with the steady purpose of death itself” – nice line.

 

 “engaged with the inferior forces of the SlaveBarons” – So the Slave Barons are on Andri’s side?. Where are they on the field, how is the fight going? What are the fighting for?

 

Who is he speaking to at the bottom of Page 3?

 

Unless there’s a reason you’re so far ahead of our lines” – This is the first significant piece of blocking that we’ve had (i.e. describing the location of the characters). I think you could do with this much earlier, providing a clear description of how far away the enemy is and his side.

 

Now we have met Dirk, I don’t understand the line from Andri “I never wanted to be Dirk.” To me, that makes it sound like Dirk is a rank, and yet you use the term/title like a name. I find it confusing.

 

a woman being r***d while simultaneously decapitated” – I take it you are not planning to submit this for publication.

 

There was no type of man in this world that a Salecian did not have the take pleasure of in killing” – grammar

 

As a BrightLord, Dirk fueled his powers with his own amusement and twice as much

with the joy of others if he caused it” – I never considered comedian as a warrior caste before – interesting.

 

He launched a spear, striking a mounted officer, which plunged and plunging through his armor” – grammar.

 

The bellowing of sergeants was overpowered by the screams of the wounded” – nice line.

 

the horse evaporating before them” – wow, did not expect that, nice idea.

 

When Adrinal crashes into the enemy’s front line, it sound like only a handful or men are attacking him, whereas there must be dozens. You describe one man, then the second and a couple of speak thrusts, but I felt there should have been handfuls of men described.

 

his robe giving the impression of a dark presence standing behind him, embracing a prized pupil” – nice line.

 

Elias’s humongous hands” – to me, this is a comical word, it made me laugh, which I didn’t think was the tone you were going for at this point.

 

Elias Vertner was one of the wealthiest and most powerful slave barons alive. Jahar

Forinya was the only BlackHeart alive that could come close to matching Elias in power,” – I found it disorienting that you introduced new characters at the end of the story – unless this is the first chapter in a novel – I'm unclear on that point now.

 

scalpel-like blades of mist cut into his soul” – nice line, slight grammar issue.

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I found the magic interesting, with great potential. It has a gloriously overblown scale and icky grandeur to it, which is enjoyable. I felt it as more of a human mutation rather than an ethereal power source, because of the wolf-heads, snakes and devouring going on. I like that. I think there are too many systems based on ‘energy’, to the point it becomes boring unless done really well, or taken in a different direction.

 

There are or course two schools of thought in relation to magic 'systems'. Sandersonian (heavily prescribed by rules) or Tolkienian (creatures being innately magical with no explanation, deus ex machina basically), and then all the points in between. Personally, I'm perfectly happy with the latter, but in either case, I think it’s very important to show the cost of casting magic. This said, you don’t have much time to do that in the heat of battle, but hopefully afterward this will be a factor in some way.

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P.S. I asked a really dumb question - have you read WoT, when you've got The Prince of Ravens as your avatar!!!! Duh!

Edited by Robinski
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Thanks Robinski for the detailed comments.  Its pretty clear I wrote a chapter stuffed with so much info only I could understand it.

 

The Elias-wolf connection... wow I am a huge WoT fan and completely missed that haha.  

 

The gruesome shield depiction-  Blackhearts create messed up societies that are cannibalistic in their oppression.  A very dismal negative world.. without explanation or background it comes off as very crass. Hurting people=power so the world is inherently brutal. 

 

I think I need to completely revamp this story and redo chapter one starting with Dirk. I bit off way more than I should have and looking back I completely agree with all of the comments that said "I didn't really care who won the battle."  Part of it was wanting to prove myself I could write the scene and make the action cool.  In doing that I ignored the characters completely.

 

So far the only people I pitch my ideas to are people who don't read... hence the misguided focus on action which did not sit well with a lot of you.  While I want the book to be violent I do want you to feel like there is someone worth rooting for and that the world can change. 

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