Eagle of the Forest Path

2016-05-30 - EotFP - Jet Black Medium Ch.0

15 posts in this topic

Hello all,

 

This is my first submission to Reading Excuses.

It's the Prologue to Jet Black Medium, a Fantasy Mystery that I hope to get to around 50-60 k words.
I think I got a bit too involved with the worldbuilding aspect, so if there's something that's not clear or confusing (description or terminology) please tell me?
 
Please enjoy.
 
 
E.
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Welcome to the group :)

 

It’s a short prologue, with a POV character who tries to remain hidden and we don’t even learn his name.  There’s not much here yet to go off on and I'm sorry to say I don’t empathize with the point of view character at all. With the way that his identity remains hidden I doubt we’ll be seeing this guy any time soon.

 

Motivations: The motivations of the mysterious man come across as weak to me. He wants a guy to suffer, but not a lot, which makes the curse more of an inconvenience than anything else. So this whole cloak-and-dagger bit comes across as misguided and petty. And expensive and risky, if the impressions I got from the start of the prologue are any indication, he’s taking a big risk going to the priestess to get a curse on someone.

 

Why does this guy go through all this to inconvenience someone who seems to have only slighted him? I’m actually surprised the priestess is fine with having her talents used in such a manner, but then again, money is money.

 

Purpose: Whenever I see a prologue I immediately wonder if it’s necessary for the story. Right now I’m not seeing the purpose of it, except to show a bit of the setting and get a guy cursed. Depending on what happens in the coming chapters the prologue might be unnecessary.

 

Magic system: I liked what you’ve shown of the magic system, of summoning spirits with paper to affect curses and the like. I want to see more of that, especially how the curse takes effect.

 

Scene break: A little nitpicky, but there’s a white space on page 4 that seems to signify a scene break, but there doesn’t seem to be a change of scenery, time or point of view, so that threw me off for a moment.

 

City: I’m curious to see more of the city, which seems to be wholly underground. At least the part where this scene takes place. The way there are hidden messages in the graffiti makes me wonder who put the markings there and for what reason. A hidden rebellion maybe?

 

So far the setting draws  me more than the character, who feel like throwaway characters in order to get the main story to start. But I’m interested enough to want to see where you’re going with this.

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Welcome to Reading Excuses!

 

I think Asmodemon's got the main points here.  There was a lot of exposition and buildup for a simple scene.  While I thought it was well written, the extra asides and explanations make this drag out.

 

I didn't feel much connection to the character either.  Sometimes this passage seems to be directly from his POV, then others it's from a more "cinematic" POV where "the man" is doing something.  This also removes us from the character.

 

A couple other notes: 

 

pg 4: "messing with," "This guy," seems like a more modern parlance than when this story is set.

 

pg 4: a shiver ran up his back - why?  Nothing seems very bone-chilling about the transaction.

 

I also like the Dhe and the worlduilding, but there may be a little too much, especially for a prologue.  I'm willing to see some faster action here, and learn more about the world in bits and pieces through the next few chapters.

 

Looking forward to more!
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I get where you're coming from with the POV, but if I tell you his name, there wouldn't be much of a mystery, now would there?

I'm willing to forego reader connection to this particular character, he's one of the 'bad guys' after all, but if it's bothersome I'll try to work something out. Maybe redo the entire prologue in 'cinematic'?

 

Motivations Some good points there, will fix them as much as possible. There are reasons for some of the things you bring up.

 

I can enlighten you about the priestess, it's sort of in her 'mandate' that she can't refuse a 'transaction', but mostly she knows the guy is lying through his teeth about his reasons (basically everyone does). One of the reasons the clients have to go masked is so the FP can't figure out why their targets are being, well, targeted, that way they can convince themselves that they deserve what's coming to them. (Though some really don't give a rat's back end)

 

Purpose To be completely honest, the prologue isn't strictly speaking necessary, but I had this image of the scene, so I really wanted to get it on paper.

 

Scene break I put it there to separate out the summoning sequence, if it's confusing I'll remove it. Thanks for pointing it out.

 

City You'll get an outside view of the city in Ch.1. Spoiler: It's not wholly underground. One of the things I usually enjoy about fantasy books are the maps, but maps for this particular setting are going to be a challenge, to say the least.

 

The graffiti is just graffiti, mostly. The man's crib sheet mainly references images that were there already when the FP set up shop. If there's no suitable image at any one intersection the FP might draw one themselves, or if they're feeling lazy just draw an arrow (which is risky) or just note "next intersection go left" on the crib sheets (which can get confusing really fast).

 

Mandamon: will try to 'archaicize' the language a bit.

About the transaction, the guy's not completely sure he should be doing this, the shiver is because this is the point of no return; after paying, he can't change his mind any more. I'll try to find a way to indicate his feelings some other way, but that might not be necessary after the POV rewrite to cinematic.

 

I'm glad both of you liked it, so far. Thanks for the feedback.

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Welcome! First submissions are always fun.

 

General

I enjoyed the premise of this story, and would be interested to learn more. The POV shifts were jarring, and that sometimes made me leave the narrative to determine what was going on. I don't think the world building is too much, in fact, I'd like to see a lot more descriptors. You do a lot of telling, not showing, and that could be expanded out substantially to really build the tension in this world.

 

I agree with Asmodemon about the pettiness. I also lack empathy for the main character. I don't mind him not having a name, but some type of voice for this chapter, some memory or motivation about why he is doing this would go a long way.

 

Just an FYI - agents seem to not be big fans of prologues these days. I'd suggest either cutting this, or turning it into a full blow chapter. As you begin you subbing journey, you'll run across agents who won't even let you submit the prologue if they request material. 

 

As I go:

- page 1: 'he often felt partitions were strange'. I've read this three times now, and I don't understand what you are talking about. This seems like a random aside, and is not well integrated into the above paragraph

- A number of your sentences could be shorter, with fewer comma splices

- page 1: I'm not really sold on why he is waiting. It stalls the action and just seems like wasted time. Could he watch the person while he waits at the very least?

- Fury Priest - not a fan of this name. Priest of Fury maybe? Fury's Priest?

- page two - your illusion to blood falls flat. This sentence could have a lot more impact if reworded. '...bearing strange reddish-brown symbols. God, he hoped it was ink.' would give this more voice.

- 'he was clever enough to know...' is showing, not telling. Show us how clever he is through context.

- page 2: a more detailed description of the mask would be nice. Really scare us with imagery here. Don't say the image is ominous. Show us. Make us feel it.

- "I want, I wish to curse someone." This would be a great opening line to the prologue

- page 3: 'the mask was really unsettling.' Suggest instead describing how the man is unsettled, instead of just stating it. Does he shift around on his feet? Fidget with his hands? Can't look straight on at the mask?

- the priestess' language seems...very informal. She's wearing this wicked looking mask and just cooly talking. It makes all the ominous buildup filter away.

- page four: '...while you think of him really hard.' This isn't a great descriptor. 'Think on him at length' would be the easier, more cliched option, but get creative. 'Think upon the wrongs he has done you' or 'Cobble together memories of his transgressions, perceived or otherwise' would be a bit more creepy

- page 5: More description on the drawing of the Dhe would sell the 'essence of the divine spirit' better

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General

Like I told Asmode- & Manda-mon. I'll rewrite the prologue so there's no POV character at all. That should also allow me to fix most of the other issues at the same time, hopefully.

 

Well, the motivation for the guy's actions is kinda gonna be one of the 'big reveals' later on in the story. I'm planning on putting foreshadowing/clues into the chapters between this and the reveal, so readers can try to discover it themselves. Including the motive in the prologue would really mess that up. I'll try to make it seem less petty in the rewrite, though.

 

Right now, I'm not too bothered yet about finding agents or actually publishing, but maybe somewhere down the line... so thanks for the advice.

 

As you went

It's actually not "partitions", but "patricians", a social class in ancient Rome, as opposed to plebeians. I took a lot of elements from that culture for the worldbuilding, so calling the upper class simply 'nobles' wouldn't have felt right.

 

I'm trying to work on the whole convoluted, over-comma-ed, phrase, but that's just how I naturally write. It's a hard habit to get out of.

 

Well, if I'm having an incognito, clandestine meeting for likely nefarious purposes, I wouldn't be too keen on having an audience, would you? I'll expand on that if I can, though.

 

Drat, I was really pleased with the term Fury Priest, too. I'll poll some local readers (aka family and friends) to see what they think, maybe come up with an alternative.

 

For your remarks on"show, not tell". I hadn't really noticed that yet myself (that's why authors need outside feedback, right?) but when I do my POV rewrite of the prologue, I'll pay some extra attention to that.

 

 

Thank you for your feedback, Kaisa. There are some really good points in there.

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Yeah, your dialogue is definitely in a different register than your narration, which I see is slated for adjustment so I won't harp on it. "think of him really hard" is another point of difference. I'd say the issue is less modernity so much as that the narration is done in a semi-formalistic style, 'business casual', let's say, and your dialogue is dropping hard into very casual usage.

 

As far as the prologue thing really: yeah, I would ask yourself why you're calling it a prologue. If it's just a slightly different angle before getting into stuff for real, just rebrand it as a first chapter. If it's anything else at all, I'd seriously consider dropping it entirely. Thing about prologues is looking at why they're in disfavour: and that's mostly because they're usually wholly extraneous, and there's no real need to set it apart.

 

Half a year's wages for a minor inconvenience definitely seems weird and not in a makes-me-wonder sort of way.

 

Scrawny, I feel, is a word that connotes a little too young for a middle-aged man, fwiw.

 

Other than that, flows well, do watch your run-on sentences, etc. Curious to see more of this.

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- I'm very curious at the setting, where there is graffiti on the wall, and yet the opening pages seems more in keeping with a traditional fantasy setting.

 

- I really like the business of cursing people. Especially when the intention seems to making the target feel regret instead of pain.

 

- The dialogue works, but it doesn't flow well in places. Sometimes it seems the priestess has too much personality, and other times, not enough.

 

- That said, I'm curious to see how this curse goes, and who is the protagonist of the story. 

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Interesting set up.

 

- I see your comment on it above but patrician really stood for me as a "what are they ?" question when reading. 

 

-I like the "magic system" and the personification of curses.  

 

-I was a little confused on the setting of these scene. i think were underground but its unclear. I am also unsure if this is a more traditional fantasy or modern fantasy tech level as graffiti instantly make me think urban. 

 

- Who is sen hamulus i thought they were summoning Carsus Matrax

Edited by Kammererite
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Okay, Graffiti. It's been around longer than you'd think, actually. It doesn't take spray-paint to make graffiti. Try googling "ancient Rome graffiti"(for a more recent example try "Kilroy was here"), or watching the opening credits for Rome(tv-show from a couple of years ago) there's also that scene in Life of Brian. Basically, in the story people just scribble on the walls sometimes, with whatever the have handy: charcoal, a piece of chalk or a stick of coloured wax, a jar of ink (coloured or not) rarely paint...

If it's confusing, maybe there's another term I could use. If I can't find one I like it'll stay as graffiti, though.

 

I screwed up on Sen Hamellus. That was originally going to be the Dhé's name and I apparently didn't replace it everywhere. Mea culpa. Will be more careful about that sort of thing.

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Hi there Eagle!

 

Line by lines first:

  • “,always at an intersection” – this modifying phrase has an unclear antecedent. I’m not sure if you mean the graffiti at intersections or at that holds up the scrap paper always at intersections
  • “yes, there, a rainbow fish” … “throwing his shadow” – The deep third threw me for a moment, but once I accepted that as a trope you threw in an omniscient phrase (must be omniscient because he’s not looking behind him or concentrating on his shadow now) I like both phrases okay, but I prefer the imagery to the thoughts in narration. Coupled together they feel a bit odd, though.
  • “Fury Priest” – I’m really glad for this phrase because I was just hoping for some kind of surprise. So far nothing in the narration has hooked me yet.
  • “A multitude of …ceiling” – Consider cutting this summary sentence? I was reading it and it gave me no visual information, and I was relieved to see you give actual specific pictures right after it. Do you really need both? (Not sure…)
  • “not to play/look too closely” – Repetition typo
  • “of course” – should have a semicolon or period after it
  • Overall, this setting paragraph felt a little bulky. Consider tightening some of the the wordier sentences and cutting vague descriptions to keep the juicier bits
  • “I wish to curse someone” – Drawing me in a little, about at the same interest level as I was when you mentioned ‘Fury Priest’
  • “How much discomfort” – liked this
  • “Tripping on the ground” – This is a fun defiance of my expectations. All this worry over being seen or caught and the guy just wants the other guy annoyed? Amusing.
  • Why the line break? The POV, time, and setting didn’t change.
  • And another at the end?

 

Overall Impressions:

 

I’m always suspicious of prologues, even in published books picked up off a shelf at the store. If a prologue’s job is draw in my curiosity and set up some important info as background knowledge for later in the book, then this particular prologue has succeeded a little more than halfway. I’m assuming this Burrus guy will show up later, and you did accomplish some world-building, but nothing in here hooked my curiosity too hard. Even the one surprise—that the curse was something trivial—wasn’t really enough for me to know I would want to read the rest of the book. The hook needs to be really strong because I’m presuming the masked character/this particular summoner aren’t going to be seen soon or again at all, since this is a prologue, and I am therefore not evaluating the characters as people to get attached to and root for.

 

The prose is overall pretty strong with only a few minor punctuation errors, but some of the places written specifically for description drag a little with extra info. If this part of an unfinished manuscript, I wouldn’t worry about any of that until the whole story’s down on paper, though.

 

To answer your question, nothing was confusing, just a bit unpolished in places.

 

Thanks for submitting and I hope you submit again soon!

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Hello,

 

I have been away awhile working on school work and decided to come back and give you some bad advice!  Love the Rome allusions and the fact that you have watched HBOs Rome!!!

 

Just to comment generally I really liked the build up of the story but I found it hard to latch on to anything emotionally. The worldbuilding was well done but at the end I was kind of like so what? I would really like you to at least hint or foreshadow why I care that this person was cursed (for better or worse there is no real emotion, no reflection on the why.  Maybe he feels the bruises on his back or even something simple like that to give me context).  I know you want a big reveal prologue type setup thing but start foreshadowing the conflict I think that will be a big improvement.

 

Questions on fury priests:

  • It seems like the magic is being undervalued in the story in the sense that you can hire a magical torturer to bother someone non stop yet its being used for petty "dont hurt him" grudges?  
  • Is there such thing as Political or socially cursing?  Why wouldn't fury priests target political targets for kings for big bucks/status?  This is like aggressive bully tweeting on crack.  Why would the ruling class allow plebs to use this?

Also I would really really really like to see someone who is cursed into not dying or embarrass them self courting someone or something comical. (I was kind of hoping the cursed subject was the protagonist but I have rarely seen a protagonist described as scrawny with thinning hair haha) 

 

I am guessing this prologue will develop and make more sense as to why this is occurring.

 

Great submission keep it going!

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Welcome to Reading Excuses, Eagle. I've seen you around the forums, but it's great that you've stepped in here to start submitting. I always think there must be many more budding authors on 17th Shard who never look this way for one reason or another... Anyway, I digress, sorry, on with the critique!

 

I enjoyed the set up, but the writing could certainly do with some polishing, for me. There are quite a few run-on sentences which, I think it’s clear, should be broken into two. The description is rather wordy in places, and I became a bit frustrated by that when I really wanted to get on with following events. You might consider boiling the description down a bit and editing the text for better flow by taking the word-count down, which can be done quite easily without losing meaning.

 

I’ll put this detail up here instead of below the line because I'm interested in any thoughts others have on this. “messing with people” – This is a modern phrase. There are two schools of thought about this. I am in Dan’s camp (if I recall the old Writing Excuses cast correctly) that such phrases damage the reader’s immersion in the story because they are out of context. I think Brandon was of the view that you can use such phrases because they are part of modern parlance, but the problem is, they are not part of everyone’s parlance. Also, there is always a better alternative using more setting-appropriate language. Lastly, the phrase ‘messing with people’ doesn’t convey anything what Clupean has done.

 

To sum up, I liked this as an introduction to the setting, although the details are sparse, but it’s a prologue, so that’s fine. The main character (of the prologue) doesn’t come over as having much character at all, but maybe he is not the protagonist, so I'm treating him as disposable for the moment.

 

I would not say I'm beside myself to read more because, although I have some questions like wondering about the priestess, and what Clupean might have done, I don’t feel any connection to any grand theme or plot thread in the story. For that reason, I might be in two minds about whether to read any further, but this is Reading Excuses, so of course I will, but I think you could do with a better hook in your prologue.

 

<R>

 

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

 

I like the first paragraph, I'm drawn into asking questions about the man’s purpose and about the patricians and their propensity for wearing masks. The route marked by a map of the graffiti is also a nice touch. I'm intrigued.

 

through deserted corridors” – To my mind, corridors are internal, so I started off thinking he was indoors. You compound this by saying “The one he was there to see was in that room” – Normally, I feel one would go from an alleyway into a building or house, rather than a room.

 

Only a short time had passed before a change in the flickering light told him someone had relit the torch” – Your tenses get mixed up here. You seem to have fallen into past tense. The second ‘had’ is probably ok, although it robs the scene of immediacy, but the first one should be deleted.

 

he decided not to pay look too closely at any” – extra word.

 

this was all make-believe, of course., in In the official temples far overhead the priests performed their craft” – Run-on sentence.

 

Failing to find anything, he fixed his gaze on the figure sitting on a low crate in the middle of the room” – This is an issue for me. If a person walks into a room, the first thing their attention goes to is any person in that room – I think. I appreciate that there is a lot of weird stuff to look at in here, but if there is a Fury Priest sitting smack in the middle, I think the newcomer needs to look at him first to assess any threat or evaluate posture / mood / emotional state before glancing at inanimate artefacts.

 

I think there is too much description of the priest. The main character walks into the room and there is a big slug of text before anyone says anything. I think this dissipates all the tension. I find it hard to stay in the scene as a wade through the description.

 

that croak had changed to a screech, like the woman couldn’t decide which fake voice to adopt” – Great line – I really like that, clever reveal of information with humour.

 

He noticed that he was sitting up straight, like his mother had forced into him as a child. Must be something in the voice, he thought” – I would consider dropping this. The reader will be able to work this out. They’ll make that connection from your reference to the mother. Give the reader credit and they will feel more satisfied by reading things into your writing.

 

But first there is the matter of… compensation” – This is not the word here, I think. Compensation is ‘something, typically money, awarded to someone in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury’. The priest is not suffering a loss, but performing a service, which would require payment or remuneration, if you want to use a fancier word. Sorry to be picky, but this sort of thing stands out for me.

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Thanks for reading and commenting.

 

@krystalynn: I'm getting a lot of people who dislike/distrust prologues, but I'm not quite ready to just delete this one just yet. I'm also not ready to turn it into the first chapter, because to me, this is obviously a prologue, chapter one being where the protagonist(s) is(are) introduced. You could call it chapter one, but unless the main characters are in it, in my opinion it's still actually a prologue.

Also, without this prologue I'd have to explain what Fury Priests are and what they do in the middle of the story, which means either an internal monologue, or having one character explain it to another. The first is possible, but I don't like it, the second would be completely unnatural, since everybody in-world already knows about FPs.

 

@FormlessFox: I'll rework the anonymous grudge-bearer's motivation (or at least, the motivation he gives the FP, wink wink)

The foreshadowing is a good idea, but I have to be careful not to give away certain things too soon. Best if I wait with the rewrite until I have the complete first draft, maybe?

 

The magic isn't actually about cursing people, that's just the use Fury Priests put it to. You can think of it as a blend between Roman household gods and (I weirdly only just realised this) Japanese Shikigami. You can set a Dhé to harass (or even injure someone) but the magic doesn't directly affect people, so sorry, no immortality curses. This should become clear in the following chapters.

 

@Robinski: Glad you liked the setting. I'll do some brainstorming about a hook and will try to make the masked man less of a non-entity (maybe if I play up the nervousness and fidgeting?). My goal is for the rewrite of the prologue to be a lot more suspenseful.

I'm already trying to work on the run-on sentences, but it's a struggle for me, please keep pointing it out though, it's a good motivator.

The wordy descriptions might be Robert Jordan bleeding through, I was (and am currently) reading Wheel of Time when I wrote this. There was a section yesterday where there was over half a page of tangential thoughts between Aviendha making a comment and Elayne replying. When I got to the reply, I had to go back and check what the comment was. Hopefully I'll manage to avoid ever doing that.

 

I'll take good note of your line-by-line when reworking this part.

 

 

Here's hoping Chapter 1 clears up some things for everyone, and thanks again for the feedback.

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p. 1 good first paragraphs - lots of intriguing questions raised without being unclear

p. 1 "the still smoking torch sitting in a bracket outside indicated he was not alone" - this made me think he should be looking over his shoulder - but then as I read on I realized that it indicated that someone was already inside - and so he is going to have to wait. I'd just try to clarify that.

p. 2 "clever enough to know that this was all make-believe." Are you trying to make him pompous? Better to show us he's clever unless you're trying to make him braggy.

p. 3 "If an appellant was concerned about revealing their identity..." This sentence was a little clunky to me, I had to reread it.

p. 4 I'm enjoying this revenge moment and am VERY curious about why he's paying all this money for vengeance.

p. 4 I also found the first scene break to be out of place and unnecessary.

p. 5 "He was awestruck;" Always better to show (which you mostly do) than tell us.

p. 5 I really like the way you describe the paper moving about and how this is the manifestation of Sen Hamellus.

A good prologue - I'm very intrigue with a good balance of information and questions that I really want answered.

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