AuthorityHellas16

AuthorityHellas16 - When Good Angels Do Nothing (redux)- Prologue [V, L]

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Greetings all,
 
So, following the submission of a few chapters from When Good Angels Do Nothing, I received some fantastic feedback. The major points raised were:
  1. The Abrahamic nature of many of the characters was clashing with the (hopefully) original setting, other characters and mechanics of the story, creating confusion and in many cases disbelief. 
  2. There was a distinct lack of strong female characters
  3. The world building was rather shallow, not painting enough of a picture of this magical place that’s in my head
  4. The stakes did not seem high enough, given that the main character could take a holiday with little consequence
  5. The main character needed a LOT of work
 
I like to think I take constructive criticism to heart. So to that end, I’ve completely re-written the prologue, as an exercise to correct the above faults. 
The main difference you’ll notice is that the character of Hellas is no more (rendering my username rather archaic). I’ve taken what I consider to be the best bits of the Hellas and Catherine characters and combined them to make one badass character called Atena, whom I hope you like. 
 
I’ve also completely eliminated the story’s Abrahamic roots, which I think makes it less jarring for those of you with a Christian background, and more accessible for those of a non-Christian extraction. Now, the angels and archangels are humans with magic; whether its an alternate dimension or they’re humanoid aliens I’ll leave up to you. This of course means that all of the characters with angelic names (e.g. Michael) have been changed, though their roles in the story remain broadly the same. 
 
This is all an exercise to try and write the best story I can. I have heaps of ideas on how to make it more engaging than the one that came before, so if you approve, I’ll keep on submitting. Also, if anyone has any ideas for a title, I'm all ears :) 
 
As always, thanks so much!
 
AH16
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Sorry, but I honestly think that the prologue you submitted last month was better. In some points this here is better - there is more consistency, it seems much more real. The Army seems more competent, even if I still don't see how they managed to let an enemy army slide in the center of the city.

On the other hand, not knowing what was happening in the first prologue I would have no Idea what is going on here. When you name angels angels, we have the Idea of Michael as the Frontline Commander Of Heaven's Armies With A Very Big And Very Flaming Sword. Marcus is an empty page to me. I have not the slightest Idea of his personality, be it right or wrong. Same goes for almost everybody else. Octavian (some sort of God's analogue? Also, is it of any significance that Octavian means "the eight"?) , Cronus and so on... They left me cold. I had no thought like "Whoa! betrayal!" or "It's Octravian himself fighting!". The only thing that stirred me is that Octavian is wingless.

Probably that would make great as a flashback interlude, while in the prologue we see what happened before the assault. Like, Athena, drinking wine (or Nektar) somewhere, say with Cronus or one of his associates, who tried to seduce her into darkness in a non-obvious way; also making the angelic or semi-angelic nature of them clear. Or - I liked the first sentence of the former prologue, about lucifers heels making sounds on the bridge through the Void. I don't know, I don't have any real feelings about this prologue.

Edited by Alfa
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OK, I am ready. Let's do this!! Also, mad kudos for you for doing another rewrite. I know how hard they can be!

Overall

Hrm. Yes, I agree with @Alfa to some extent. Although I do like this better than any of your previous subs, it is still needing work. I don't understand the reason for the conflict, nor anyone's motivation for fighting. I want to be invested in at least one character before heads start rolling. I'm going to suggest that you do a character study, like @Robinski has been doing with Quark and Moth, but do one for Atena. No war. No killing. Maybe just... the day before she goes off to sword training. Her birthday. Something to give you a feel for who she is, so we, as readers, can get a feel for who she is. 

I do want to add that yes, of course, I'm beyond thrilled that the female count is up, but you didn't necessarily need to include strong females. @Mandamon has toyed around with more passive females, and that was very enjoyable. I do like Atena though, BAMF or no. I think she has potential. 

Can't wait to read the next one! It's fun to watch stories and writers evolve!

As I go

- page one: still a lot of heavy adjective use. Makes for hard reading. Suggest putting a limit of 1-2 per sentence until you get more into the hang of sparing usage.

- Hm. When I think crystal melting, I don't think rubbery.

- "black shadows of murderous traitors" - heavy handed here. Very caricature. Would be more impact if it was specific, perhaps something she relates to. Maybe something like (and I'm just pulling from my rear here): "Dark shadows of the Nihil Thieves, whose den she'd raided only one month prior".

- 'manic horde'. Per usual, I'm going to plea for not using this word. It worked in @Robinski's piece because of the very surreal, dreamlike nature of the writing. Here, this is more concrete, and horde is a vague word that means very little. Specifics will get attention. Vague writing is just...vague.

- going from 'bleary eyed' to 'snarling' is a rough transition. I'd enjoy it more if they went from bleary eyed to panicked, and their panic made the battle harder to win because there was just a teeming mass of people running around like chickens. Also, solid place for Atena to make some comment or thought that showcases her personality. Like, maybe she just can't stand commoners because they always make life more difficult. Or maybe she grew up in one of those homes and remembers what its like to be shaken from her bed by fighting.

- page two: "twenty grizzled men and women". Yes. All the yes. Thank you.

- I read "good old fashioned muscle' as "good old fashioned music" at first, and was really curious where you were going with this.

- page two: you talk about horrors Atena has seen, but that's vague. I want specifics. Give me the horrors of her life! Spell them out! Fridge the husband (the wife?) just for the sheer irony!

- page three and the discussion of aspect energy: Would like more of this, please, and more wing play in general

- page five: I'm having a hard time caring about the battle, or the stakes, because I don't know what personally makes Atena fight. Need more on her motivation

- page five: Dialogue or banter between Octavian and Atena would help a lot. I don't understand why they are fighting

 

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2 hours ago, kaisa said:

- page two: you talk about horrors Atena has seen, but that's vague. I want specifics. Give me the horrors of her life! Spell them out! Fridge the husband (the wife?) just for the sheer irony!

Somehow I doubt that "ironically" fridging anybody if the lead is a woman be the fridged male or female (or other) is better than fridging the wife of the male lead character. You're still killing somebody without a real point, just to create sympathy for the lead.

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20 minutes ago, Alfa said:

You're still killing somebody without a real point, just to create sympathy for the lead.

Agreed. Apparently my attempt at humor fell flat.

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Hey AH,

This is my first time reading any of your stuff, so my commentary won't be so finely tuned as those familiar with where you're going, but maybe I can confirm some things that did or didn't work.

Firstly, changing the names and setting, for me, was a good thing and has had the effect you were looking for. I opened the first prologue and started reading something about Lucifer as the protag and that's where I stopped. Mixing religion with fiction is a questionable imho, so that put on my 'not going to read this radar'. Making them your own fantasy world--that's different. I think you've broadened your audience.

Atena does read as a really strong character. When she smiles after 'overestimating' the enemy and then lands in a totally wicked, felt like a movie SFX sequence kind of way, I understood her perfectly.

The beginning and the fighting section were weak components for me. The writing itself was often vivid (not always clear as mentioned by @kaisa) but there were seeral places where you did evoke things in my imagination that I enjoyed. On the other hand, 'the city's on fire and it's our home' is a really overused trope in high fantasy, and it left me feeling squeamish about whether I was getting into a good story or a predictable one. The battle scenes are just too long. The individual passes of what's happening aren't complicating the plot, just lengthening it. I'd like to see some of it cut and you get to the characters faster. I'd buy the town burying down bit better if I already knew/liked the characters.

I'm going to disagree with @Alfa a little bit. I see what he means, but his knowledge of what it used to be is clearly influencing his read of the work. As someone with no previous bias because I didn't read the last version, I have to say that I think you got Marcus' character across in very few lines of dialogue. The comment about him having too much fun in the middle of a battle and his general entrance made it pretty obvious to me that he was the army's MVP, even without connecting him to the Bible. I also felt intrigued by Cronus and Octavian. I don't know that I would 'get' that Octavian is a god-like figure from what's here, but the fact that he's running the place and Cronus is jealous was enough for me. His soft voice and the weak leaning made for a curious introduction that set him off as different from everyone else there and I was immediately curious to know more about this trio's history. If the prologue is meant to incite curiosity rather than feel like a culmination of something, this works as it is.

I think if you shake up the start and give us more character there and get us to the ending faster, it'll make a stronger prologue.

Please keep going. Thanks for submitting!

 

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Kudos on doing such a thorough rewrite!  I liked this a lot better because it immediately got me wondering what their world is like, rather than trying to compare it to various iterations of Abrahamic heaven.  I agree with Alfa and kaisa that you'll need some more work on character sketches, since you don't have recognized personalities to build on, but this has a lot of potential.  I liked the more direct confrontation between Octavian and Cronus (and I like mythology, so brother gods fighting already get me interested).  The names...yeah, you could probably come up with more original ones, since now I'm thinking Roman and Greek mythology rather than Abrahamic.

Like Krystalynn, It was hard to separate this from the first reading, so I'm sure I'm still influenced, but it's a good start!  It will be a challenge to get all the new characters and describe the magic going forward.

Two notes while reading:

The first few paragraphs are a little adjective-heavy

pg 4: "Each Devastator placed one hand on the edifice and another on their shoulder"
-on their own shoulder, or on a neighbor's shoulder?

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First submission I've read, so I'm using fresh eyes on this new prologue.

One thing I always look for after reading prologues is how many things I can remember being established. There are seven things I recall in this one: how combat and flight magic work, confirmation on the knowledge of classical mythical beasts (but no confirmation on their existence), military organization in this region, length of the recent peacetime, how certain high level beings are treated, pipe-related technology (or some other way for gaskets to exist), and at least one alternate/parallel dimension.

I think that's a decent amount, especially if most of it becomes relevant later in the story.

There are half a dozen or so named characters that are physically present during this prologue. Though Atena takes focus as the viewpoint character, I felt a bit thrown off whenever she began interacting with a different person. I'm not familiar enough with any of these characters to keep track of who's in the scene at the moment. I had to flip back to check who someone was at one point, and also to see what certain types of soldiers were able to do.

Because "Mark" is capitalized, there were moments were I thought it was someone's name whenever the mark was used for magic. The existence of a character named Marcus was probably a part of why this happened.

As far as I can tell, this prologue mainly acted as a way to show various acts of magic and violence. Due to that, I expect there to be a lot of action throughout the rest of the story, or something else that has a similar tone.

That's the gist of what I think so far.

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2 hours ago, Vreeah said:

First submission I've read, so I'm using fresh eyes on this new prologue.

One thing I always look for after reading prologues is how many things I can remember being established. There are seven things I recall in this one: how combat and flight magic work, confirmation on the knowledge of classical mythical beasts (but no confirmation on their existence), military organization in this region, length of the recent peacetime, how certain high level beings are treated, pipe-related technology (or some other way for gaskets to exist), and at least one alternate/parallel dimension.

That is one prettty good approach. I think I'll use it more often to prologues.

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Hey AuthorityHellas,

Overall, I liked this new prologue well enough but can't say I loved it or that I'm hooked. As I read, I kept waiting for the big surprise, or for a seriously deadly threat to enter the stage, but it didn't really happen. Cronus showed up, but they handled him easily enough so I'm not worried about the characters being able to handle him again later on, despite his warnings about a "benefactor." In other words, I'm thinking that one purpose of your prologue was to establish a serious threat that will leave me thinking, "Wow, how are they going to handle that?" and get me hooked, but I'm not feeling a threat. Is there something Cronus can do to strike a major blow to the defenders rather than just getting away scot-free?

I really like your descriptions and world-building. As with others, I agree that the prose is a little adjective-heavy, a little bogged down. Another edit or two should clean it up.

You said they've had 500 years of peace. How then did they get so accomplished at warfare? 

On the point of world-building, I still think you should tease, or introduce, aspects of this world a little slower. It's like the rule of thumb that a writer shouldn't introduce too many characters at once, overwhelming the reader. You're offering a lot of new inventions to the reader, and I think you should allow more opportunity for each to sink in, or sprinkle them throughout the book. You very rapidly introduce Devastators, Lightning teams, Guardians, Seekers, Forging (with several different outcomes in this chapter), Marks, Custodian energy blades, aspect energy, wings, etc. I think you want to show how rich this world is (and it is rich), but the overall effect (for me, at least) is like one of those hyperactive and ultra-colorful shows they make nowadays for kids. This is a "less is more" thing, for me. There's tons of cool stuff but I felt like you were piling them up on my plate, instead of using showmanship to amaze me with each one. Scanning the comments above, I don't see others making the same point so maybe it's just me...

Nice work!

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Thanks so much all of you for such amazing feedback. I'm glad that a lot of you have enjoyed the new version, for all its first-draft foibles, while giving me such sage advice. I also acknowledge that for those of you who read and enjoyed my previous version that it's difficult to read this without comparing it, so a special thank you for your efforts. I promise that from here, the story diverges from its parent in tone and events, so it'll all be new!

Reading the feedback, I think there are a lot of things I can improve on (obviously). These include, but are not limited to:

  • The Characters: This area of the story is something I'm very excited to flesh out. I think that because the previous version went through so many iterations, and very little character work, the characters there seemed stale or inconsistent.
    You guys also mentioned the venerable Robinski and his character sketches. I love this idea, and have actually made the first chapter of the story proper (set twelve years after the prologue) in a similar vein. Without giving too much away, it's very much a "day-in-the-life" type chapter, which I hope gives you guys more insights into her character and motivations. I'm very excited to see what you think of this :) 
  • The Stakes: This is a similar problem to the previous iteration, and something that I haven't quite figured out yet. I agree that Cronus needs to be more of a threat, and have several ideas for this. Just need to work on it
  • The Writing: "adjective-heavy" is something I've seen a few people point out. I'm sure I got a bit too flowery, and can cut it down. So thanks.

Overall, wonderful feedback. What's particularly gratifying is the excitement some of you are reporting. That really makes me happy, so thank you all so much. 

I can't wait to see where this takes us!

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On 08/08/2016 at 0:36 PM, AuthorityHellas16 said:

I’ve taken what I consider to be the best bits of the Hellas and Catherine characters and combined them to make one badass character called Atena

Wow, that's a bold move. I'm just about to start reading the submission, but from the start, I think this is the kind of bold move that could really elevate the story. Good moxie for taking the bull by the horns!

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Well, that is quite the comprehensive recasting of the story.

Some stylistic issues remain, for me. The use of 'modern' (contemporary) idiom in dialogue* is something that I have never liked, but that’s your style, so I’ll say no more about it.

I'm not convinced this is a prologue at all, it reads like Chapter 1 to me, unless you are going to transport the whole thing into the future or to a different location and starting point for the story proper. Still, all that action in a prologue feels off to me. Alfa noted that characterisation had suffered, and I tend to agree. But I do like the potential that Atena has for agency.

I'm sorry about the loss of the Abrahamic theme and setting, I think the story becomes much more generic because of that. I think it loses the resonance it had, for me at least, to think that this was taking place in heaven, and Lucifer was the antagonist. Even though I was never fully convinced by the inaction of the Trinity, the fact that they were painted as remote and ambivalent was, I thought, a strong element of the previous version. Easy for me to say as an Agnostic, but that’s my 2 cents.

<R>

* By which I mean modern almost 'slang' phrasing or styling of dialogue where there is no obvious basis for language to have developed in exactly the same way as it has in the Western Hemisphere of Earth by the early 21st Century.

Edited by Robinski
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Hey!

I read the prolgue and made comments during my writing breaks this week.  I have no idea if this will be helpful, but here it is all the same.

 

I liked it.  There is a lot of world building, some good action and we get a look at the villain and heroes.  I don't think this is a prologue.  This feels like chapter 1.  

 

I will mention some of the small catches I found, and some thoughts and suggestions.  Some  of them may be better than what you did, but they may not be.  Have a look and you can decide.   Caveat: I read through the chapter over three readings, and it was after hitting my 1500 word daily targets.  My story gets violent and yours does too.  What I'm getting at is this:  I was startign to feel a little 'action fatigue' when your prologue finished.  Although I liked it, I wonder if it would finish with more zing if the fights with Cronus and Octavian and Atena wrapped up quicker.  The way the fire parted around Atena's energy felt repetitive instead of 'cool'.  

I still liked it.  You know how to write, and you paint a good image and I think you may have some compelling characters.  

FIRST PASS

Quote

Everywhere she looked, rich vermillion flames licked at the ebony sky, ravenously tearing through the forest of lanceolate, crystalline spires. Screams echoed through the streets, punctuated by the clashing of metal on metal and the manic, gleeful laughter of the madmen who tore through the streets. Every so often, the plaintive cry of a dying exim would be cut short by a traitor’s weapon.

 

Two thoughts:

·       Your word choice.  You drop us into a setting and describe the setting with a word that sent me to the dictionary right away.  Lanceolate is a good word.  I like it and may use it.  But I’m not sure I’d use it in my first sentence. 

·       You introduce a new word, exim.  This is a creature that isn’t described at all.  As powerful as your language is, the first paragraph is more abstract than I think you wanted it to be. You put so much effort into describing the scene with your senses that I wanted you to be aware of this. 

Quote

But what struck Atena was the smell. The rubbery scent of melting crystal and the unmistakable stench of blood and burning flesh were so strong she could almost taste them. 

 

Very weird thing to taste. Most people would want to retch.  Not eat. 

Quote

She wrinkled her nose and grimaced, trying not to avoid picturing the last time she had experienced such a foul concoction of odours. 

Trying not to avoid’.  You can clarify this:  As hard as it was, she embraced the stench.

Quote

‘Concentrate, moron,’ she grunted to herself. She focussed her attention on the streets, teeming with the black shadows of murderous traitors. She noted the huge improvised barricades that blockaded the wide thoroughfares, odds and ends piled high

 

Too many pronouns in a row here.  You use ‘she’ six times before you use her name again. I think you should limit it to three so we can learn put the character’s name in our mind.

Quote

I can do this, Atena thought. Her wings, deltoid fragments of golden light suspended from her shoulder blades, shone bright as she rocketed down towards the edge of Altamar, touching down on the hard cobblestones at the head of the army

 

This is the first hint of action. From your character  The new trend of prologues is the ‘James Bond’/’Indiana Jones’ sort.  High action to plunge us into your world or character.  I know this is not what you want, but the temptation for is too great.  Ever thought of starting your book with:

‘Concentrate, moron,’ Atena grunted. 

Quote

 

The Ordo Milita had been given no warning of the attack, and with almost five hundred years of peace had little reason to expect it. 

 

I’d break this up into two sentences. It sets the scene. 

Quote

. As When the militia they first caught sight of their burning home, their bleary eyed expression was replaced by snarling rage

Quote

Atena thought she heard no shortage of curses amongst the throng, as well as various colourful descriptions of what each soldier would do to the traitors.

How can Atena think she heard no shortage?

Quote

‘Ah, just like at Parandale,' Marcus noted, his smile widening.

‘If you do your job this time, it’ll end up a hell of a lot better than Parandale,' Atena replied, returning his grin. She turned on her heel and marched towards her company, the Fourth. 

 

I liked this exchange.  It’s where I bite into the story.

Quote

‘You’re not going to give up today.’ She reached over her shoulder and withdrew her glaive, Peacemaker from its sling.

 

I’d put the name first, and then the description after.  It would feel more ‘epic’.

Quote

Traitorous exim swarmed around and over the barricade in their dozens, waving their improvised weapons impotently at the approaching soldiers.

Still don’t know what exim are at this point.  No real description of what everyone is fighting. 

Quote

Scores of traitors, bloodied from head to toe from their self-indulgent slaughter, threw themselves at the Fourth Company. 

Oh…I thought they poured through the opening to run away. 

Quote

The Seeker squad’s warforgers cast fire and lightning down on the traitors, tearing up the ground to slow their advance. 

 I will mention here that this story has a huge learning curve.  The new words, combined with the fancy armor-three different kinds-and the way that each one fights is a lot to take in.  I’m still a little confused about what an exim is and that may be affecting my ability to ‘see’ the scene.  You describe the action well, and it feels epic and exciting.  I think you could really rock this prologue if you lower the abstraction a bit in one or two of these areas. 

Quote

An armoured traitor she thought she recognised from the Third Company attacked her with his Custodian. 

More named weapons that I am not familiar with.

An armoured traitor she thought she recognised from the Third Company attacked her with his Custodian. 

Quote

Octavian lay unmoving at the foot of the Temple steps. His eyes, usually blue and piercing, were screwed shut.

Strange visual. 

Quote

‘Hello Cronus,’ Atena called, scowling at the traitor. The handsome, blonde-haired man looked over his shoulder at her. 

Wait.  Where is Cronus?

Quote

Atena blasted forward, tackling Cronus around the waist and tossing him him word repetition at a nearby wall.

 

Quote

‘I will not give up on my brother,’ Octavian said, his voice growing firmer. 

Growing firmer doesn’t sound right.  I’d change it to: ‘his voice firm’ or ‘he said firmly’. 

Quote

My benefactor and I have plans for this city, and this world. You may have won today, but I promise to return and finish the job.

Feels a little cliché.

Quote

With a small poof, he was gone,  (etxtra space)  - vanished into the labyrinthine space between worlds, known as the Void.

How does Atena know where she where Cronus went?  This is a POV error? 

Quote

The captain nodded, pointedly ignoring Atena’s disgusted tone; disagreements between alta were none of his business. 

Stretching POV here again. 

Second Pass

Quote

‘Trying not to avoid'.

Period on inside. 

Quote

Her wings, deltoid fragments of golden light suspended from her shoulder blades, shone bright as she rocketed down towards the edge of Altamar, touching down on the hard cobblestones at the head of the army. 

 

I think it shoudl be 'brightly'. 

Quote

As When the militia they first caught sight of their burning home, their bleary eyed expression was replaced by snarling rage.

bleary-eyed.

Quote

Marcus opened his mouth to counter with the next bright idea that popped into his head, but restrained himself this time. 

I don't think you need this  comma. 

Quote

With the exception of the Seeker captains, 

Except for the Seeker captains...

Quote

They were sensations with which she was all-too familiar; 

all-too-familiar

Quote

Her Lightning teams had efficiently slaughtered every quisling on or near the barricade in a matter of minutes.

killed feels like the better word here.  

Quote

She felt a deep sense of dread settle in the pit of her stomach.

profound?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Puddles. As always, your comments are insightful and detailed. I particularly appreciate your comment about the learning curve. I'll ensure that the terms I use are more pronounced; it is hard when you intrinsically know what you mean but forget that other's don't because you made it all up!

 

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