M.Puddles

Oct 3, 2016 Reading Excuses-M. Puddles- The Capture-1st post- 5151 words (L)(V)(S)

16 posts in this topic

Hello Reading Excuses.  This is my first submission and I'm not sure what to expect.  I working to get better, and most of your are better than me.  Please tell me what works, and what doesn't.  If you have any suggestions for my writing, I'd love to hear them.  

This chapter is a combination of scenes I glued together so I could offer something cohesive in a 5000 word format.  My novel is long, and is told through a dozen points of view.  I included three in this sample, and the same three characters are present or mentioned in each point of view. I think this selection will give you a fair shot of where I am, and who some of my characters are.  

Be honest.  

Thank you,

 

Matt

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Hey M. Puddles - welcome to Reading Excuses!

- It's very well-written, engaging prose, first of all, but I'm still trying to figure out what all is going on.

- It's a little weird when the sound effects and thoughts are both represented by italics, and so close together.

- I really like the action in the first section, but it comes out of nowhere. Some foreshadow could help increase the tension.

- I like how the story continues just with different perspective.

- Overall, it's a good selection,. I'd like to read more. You have some minor grammar issues - like comma splice - but otherwise, its pretty interesting. 

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Thanks rdpulfer.  I inlcluded this in the e-mail.   I'm not sure if it got sent or if you had a chacne to see it:

This is a combination of scenes that I have glued together to give a semblance of cohesion to my story.  It occurs around the 850 page mark of my story.  What you need to know:
A paliadar is similar to a Paladin.  There are legends where they had special powers but that is no longer the case.  Raynauld just overthrew the a governing Theocracy, and Raist (Lord Crast) is his general.  Raist has some of those powers that the ancient Paliadars used to have, but only Raynauld knows it.  Their god is known as “The Essence”.  

If I made any posting errors, please forgive me.  

You found some splices? I try to hunt those down like vermin.  Could you post where you saw a couple?

Re Italics as thoughts and side effects.  A great point.  One I overlooked.  I'm not sure how to do it differently though.  Suggestions? 

Thank you for reading my chapter.  Does the portion from the e-mail help?

Edited by M.Puddles
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- I read your initial e-mail. I still thought it could have used some foreshadows, at least in the scenes.

- Here's a few comma splices I saw - 

"We've got her! We've got her boss!"

"Grab him and tie him to the horse."

"Lead on General."

- You could use "he thought" or "he wondered". Or you could just have the thoughts without the italics. Or you could just make sure your sounds and thoughts aren't near one.

- I hope this helps!

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Thank you, rdpulfer.   I'm glad you liked the action sequences.   It is great fun to hear from a reader.   

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Welcome to RE!

Overall

I don't get a feel for the world much with these excerpts, nor the stakes. I think we'd be better off critiquing chapter by chapter, instead of overall.

That aside, I was disappointed in this submission. The treatment of female characters was unacceptable. All the characters were male save a mentioned (dead) wife (+1 to fridge trope), and a daughter who is abducted (+1 to fridge), threatened with rape (+2 for titilation with fridge), and potentially killed (+1 to fridge trope). Please help us end sexism and borderline misogyny in fiction by remembering and writing with these ideas in mind:

1) Females make up slightly more than 50% of the population. Therefore your characters in a generalized world (outside of, say, a male boarding school book or a sci fi with an agender species, etc) should also be populated as such

2) Females have their own desires and interests, and do not exist solely for driving male plots. When you present females as with the daughter, you give her entire existence in your book one meaning - to gain reader sympathy and empathy for the knight. 

3) Females do not exist solely as sexual objects. Rape, objectification, etc., do have their place in a narrative structure, and can be useful plot devices. However, when they are presented in a manner meant (or described so that they do, intent is not always a driving force and I understand you likely did not mean for your scene to come across like this) to titilate the reader, this now shows the reader that females not only do not have independent lives, but in fact exist solely for the pleasure of males. 

I think the story as presented has potential, but the role of females needs to be reassessed. I would be happy to help you with this further if you would like, in this thread or over PM. Keep writing! Critiques help us all grow and become better writers!

As I go

- comma splices are prevalent. You'll want to go through and clean those up at some point

- the first sentence is a run-on

- Woah. Three names in one paragraph that all begin with C? I will never keep these characters straight. Best to introduce characters one at a time, and give distinct names.

- So. Many. Names. Who are all these people?

- wife is dead, daughter is being kidnapped? My fridge senses are tingling.

- Landon is screaming like a wild animal why? I don't have enough character context or world building to care about Landon or this battle right now

- You're fridging the daughter. Please do not do this. Using the death/pain/ tittilating injuries of females to further drive reader empathy for a male character is not ok. See this link for more information.

“Maybe I’ll just cut her nighty away, and see what the offspring of a Divine Knight looks like?  What do you think fellas, will her tities glow?” And here you hit the titilation part of fridging. You've achieved bingo blackout. 

- 'Raist' reads very near to 'Racist'

- wait, so did the girl actually die? That's a whole new bingo board there.

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Hello M.Puddles!  Congrats on your first submission!

Overall, I enjoyed this story.  Since you're giving us a scene from the middle, I gave you some benefit of the doubt when it came to background information.  The paragraph from your email was certainly helpful, but there were still places were I didn't know what was going on - which I assume wouldn't be the case if I had started from the beginning, so I didn't really consider it a "problem" and I just kind of skimmed those parts.  So, I'm not going to comment on that (except for spending this whole paragraph saying I'm not going to comment... erm, oops).

I liked that it was action-packed, and I agree with rdpulfer that it's well-written.  I also like the plot elements - the secret powers, the capture - and I'm very interested to learn what's going on with Raist.  He seems to be hiding a lot - not just his powers.  I'm wondering why, and what his motives are.  I thought the different points of view were also well done.  Nothing felt like "telling" to me, either, which is great.

Reading your submission as a stand-alone piece, I was also concerned about the issues that kaisa brought up above.  As a piece in the larger context of your novel, it could be that you've given Landon's daughter and wife a lot of dimensionality in other places.  But I agree that it would be smart to emphasize Cella's character here, in Landon's capture scene.  It would not only make Cella feel less like a plot device, it would up our sympathy for both Cella and Landon (kaisa may have already said this, I might have just missed it).  I do think you did a good job of describing Landon's feelings and reactions as he sees his daughter in danger.

You missed a ending quotation mark here - starting attacking everyone till you came in and set things right."  

On page 17, when they start talking about Lord Barryl, I was confused as to who was trying to say what.  At first I thought Raynauld was questioning Raist about it, but then it sounded like Raynauld was starting to explain something, and I didn't think he knew anything about it.

Finally, I caught a POV blocking issue here:  Raist was looking at him when Raynauld looked up, and he wasn't sure... If Raynauld hadn't been looking up yet, how did he see everything that happened in the previous paragraph?

Overall, this was very engaging.  It sounds like a great story.  I'd be interested to read it from the beginning with more context.

ETA: I also think Raist's name looks a little too close to Racist... 

Edited by Hobbit
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p.1

Willing yourself to sleep never works... I tried it the night before my university started (that's a side note if someone wondered why I'm answering later than before + I may not be able to read all 5 submissions each week, although I will try).

The first page (I know it's not really, but for me it is), and I see too many names already. Not to mention that reading about a man I don't know pondering about family I don't know isn't too engaging.

p.2

The problem with italics struck me too. I would probably just put the sounds normally and save italics for thoughts only.

p.3/4

Is Landon a superhuman? Because if he's not, him parrying a sword thrust with a knife makes me roll my eyes. Then he's ramming his head into a guy's chest - having his hands free, why? -  and I'm rolling eyes some more. I got this image of a guy hitting another guy like a bull, and it took all the tension that could be there, it's too cartoonish. And Landon doesn't even mention his head later, only his aching hand O.o

Wait a sec. He still has the sword? How did he slam his hands into the guys chest, if he carried the sword? Did he pierce him with the blade - if so, why didn't you write about it?

His opponents seriously don't know how to fight if they can't take one man down. Like, really. The moment he grabs the other guys arm, another should just slash him from the side/rear.

Oh, red eyes. So he is a superhuman after all? Then I recommend you mention it above, preferably at the beginning of the fight - Landon may think that the opponents seemed sluggish to him or whatever.

p.5

Despite fridging I like the development here. It's not the beginning of the books, so perhaps Cella had some development before, and if she's a child, then I don't expect her to do anything in such a situation.

p.6

The line about hos everything would be OK is a bit cliche.

Why should they cut her anyway? She's the perfect hostage if they ever needed Landon's further cooperation, and to keep him calm!

p.7

Wow. I think those bad guys are just brutes and idiots. Was that intentional?

The description at the end of the chapter/part was very well done. I could imagine Landon's pain.

p.8

I like the change of POV. Now we have the other side of the coin :D 

p.11

He liked the darkness  - a typo

p.14

CrestFall... I can't exactly tell why, but the name rings a bell. I'm pretty certain I had seen it before somewhere else.

p.19

So the girl died, really? When did that happen? O.o I feel it deserves more attention that it got.

Overall

The part is well written, and the action interesting, although some moments of the fight seemed far-fetched. I can get the feeling of the character from their POV, which is very good (I'm reading The Promise of Blood right now, and nearly all the characters there sound the same, so it's a relief to read something with stronger character voice). I'm overall interested, and I think that the issues I mentioned are minor (I wouldn't stop reading because of them). But I do hope that you have some major female characters (another thing The Promise of Blood lacks).

Also, I didn't have the Raist/Racist problem, but I'm not native, so I probably pronounced the name differently than everybody else here :) 

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Wow.  

Thank you rdpulfer, Kaisa, Hobbit, and Ernei for reading my chapter, and for sharing your feedback.  You made good points, and raised some thoughtful questions.  

I think I will replace the sound effects with something along these lines:

     Old

he would have to promote someone…

Thunk.  

What the hells?  Landon lowered his glass to the shelf and stilled his breathing to listen.

 

NEW

 

he would have to promote someone.  

 

Something thunked against the wall and Landan stopped midstep.  He stilled his breathing and listened while he lowered his glass to a shelf.   Silence.  Dimissing whatever it was to the wind or some animal, Landon gulped his drink and heard two more knocks.  What the hells?   

 

 

 

I need more female characters in my story.  I have a handful, but of the ten characters with arcs, and only two of them are female.  They become integral characters at the mid point onward, but I think I need more in first third of my book. 

As for 'fridged off a bridge', I will re-evaluate that score when the first draft is complete.   The tone of the book is Abercrombie meets Sanderson, at least that is what I would like it to be.  

 

In case you want ot know: 

 

Raist is pronounced 'Raced'.   Is that the way it sounded to you?  

I'm glad the 'bad guys' came across of louts.  A good portion of them were street-tough only days ago s and the rest are former soldiers.  

I came up wiht the name Crestfall when I crested a peak and got a great overhead view of a waterfall dropping into a ravine.  It may be used by someone else though.  I'm not sure. 

The girl lives.  Raist leaves the girl somewhere safe and lies to Raynauld. I had to cut and paste sections from the story and they appear in this section out of sequence with how they appear in the story.  In my version, you knowthe girl is safe by the time Raynauld and Raist speak. 

 

A question about splices.  The splices that I see are in dialogue and I need more feeback about them.  I have my computer read out the chapters to me so I can hear my characters speak.  I conciously add commas into the dialogue until it sounds the way I want it to.  Right now I'm a little stumped. In my last writing group, we would never tough grammer when it came to the flow of dialogue.  We'd note if soemeone forgot a comma at the end of a phrase and before the quotation mark and I'm worried I may be blind to the issue.  I'd really apprecaite hearing more of your thoughts concerning this topic.  

 

 Once again, thank you all so much for reading my chapter this week.  Your thoughts and ideas were to the point and helpful.  I'd be fortunate to have you make comments in any of my future submissions.  Dragons to all of you,

 

Matt

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9 hours ago, M.Puddles said:

Raist is pronounced 'Raced'.   Is that the way it sounded to you?

That is the way I said it in my head.  I wonder if you can change out one or two letters to make it look less visually like "Racist."  Rayst?  Raiced?  I don't think it's a huge deal.  By the time I was done with your submission, I was used to the name.

The new version of the sound effects + thoughts works well!

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Hey there, a belated welcome from me to Reading Excuses. Always keen to read material from new members. So, jumping straight in...

Landon

- This first section read pretty smoothly. I felt there were some clunky phrases, a couple of words repeated close together, an odd strange word choice, but nothing in the mechanics in that an edit couldn't fix easily. There were names and background context that I didn't know, of course, but could pretty much get the idea. His daughter being there and the mother not was a little odd, but then I don't know the background. Presume the mother is not dead, as he is writing to her and having it delivered, and it seems that he is sending his daughter away, which does beg the question why she is there in the first place, rather than with the mother. But none of those question matter really, since I'm not commenting on the context that I don't have.

- So, it's more about the style and the immediate events, or course. Firstly, there is little description, so the setting doesn't come alive for me, it's pretty much blank. Also, I have little description, and therefore picture of what the characters look like, so they tend to be anonymous. Emotionally, Landon misses his wife, worries for his daughter and gets angry when she is threatened. For me, there's no 'wow'. These are all very familiar tropes.

- I don't fully grasp the situation. Presuming Landon is a 'goodie', then it seems like he's on the wrong side of the law for some reason. I'm not clear why. The constables, i.e. law enforcement establishment, at first, seem to be acting within what I think would be reasonable guidelines for subduing a suspect. That all changes when they start to rough up the daughter. It goes further than damsel in distress when it's his child that's involved, so I believed that. I was also okay with his being taken over by bloodlust/rage/special ability, and felt some threat to the girl because he seemed to be out of control. The depiction of that could have been slightly more effective, I felt, as it was a bit unclear in places, but still worked ok for me.

Raist

- Saluting then kneeling, seems weird and redundant.

- A handful of typos, but again, this read through pretty smoothly. I get a decent picture of events, although little specific imagery. Still, I can conjure up a generic interior to place events in.

- I am quickly more interested in Raist in this short section than I was in Landon in the last. Raist has abilities that he doesn't like to use but, more interestingly, he has power that he also seems at odds with. Clearly, he is ruthless, and knows what has to be done to reach his goal, to keep order and be effective, and yet he struggles to deal with it, as evidenced by his hurling after doing the deed. This all adds up for me to make him more complex, with inner conflicts that I would like to know more about.

- However, you mention in your introduction that Raist is a general. I find it hard to believe that an actual general, commander of thousands of men, would get his hands dirty in this way, and be dealing with such relatively low matters. That jarred for me, as did the part about Raist using his power and nobody noticing. Surely, all his men noticed that the wall just blew in and a mysterious force downed their target just when Raist arrived. I got the sense that they all knew it was him.

Raynauld 1

- Characters waking up at the start of a scene, and blacking out at the end of one, seems old hat to me, kind of unsophisticated. If feel that there are more imaginative and potentially effective ways to catch the reader's attention at the start of a chapter/section/scene. I felt that you turned my view of this scene around with the fact that he'd fallen asleep waiting for news. I thought that added a dimension to the situation, although it didn't go anywhere and he just turned out to be drunk.

- If the wine is sticky then to me it's not dried, it seems to me.

Raynauld 2

- "four curved pies of a circle" - Lol, realise you meant pieces, but actually those pieces have a name, you could say quadrants, sectors or arcs.

- "giving the illusion"

- Learning near the end that the daughter has been dispensed with (is that right?) is troubling. I feel sure that you will get some jip for that from certain other critics, and I would be forced to agree. In the lead up to her apparent demise, the girl gets no lines and is barely even seen, isn't described and is then objectified by one of the constables. That last can be written off as the guard's misogyny, but in general, it seems that the girl is just a tool to make the reader sympathise with Landon, and not a person at all. Even if she did have a background and voice in earlier parts of the story, she is dispensed with quickly in this submission.

In summary, I read through this quickly (smoothly) enough, but I don't get much sense of identity from anyone, apart maybe from Raist. The setting as well feels vague, generic fantasy urban, or at least that what I superimpose on it because of the limited description. These are my main complaints. Given the little I know about the situation, I don't really care all that much what happens to the characters, because I don't have any set up to invest in, or promises to read on for the answers to.

You mentioned that this is 850 pages into your story. I'm surprised, as this tends to feel like set up rather than resolution; maybe it's just being dropped in that late. Is that mark near the end of the story? I would hope so, as you must be at about 200,000 words on normal manuscript format. It's a long old haul to get though if there is new stuff still being set up, and with description that could be more vibrant and memorable.

I hope there are some helpful observations in here. Thanks for submitting.

<R>

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Thanks again to everyone that read and responded to my chapter.  it's not easy jumping into a story so far progressed, and I appreciate your willingness to tackle the challenge.  I'm encouraged that most of you mentioned that the writing was smoothe and that the action came across clean.  There are a few repetitions I need to address in my second draft.

I'd stil like to hear what this group's concensus is on: comma splices within dialogue.  

Most of what I could find suggest that it is reasonable but I want to make sure I'm not overlooking a standard that may have changed.  

I will read work from your stories too, and try to provide helpful observations and suggestions that you may find helpful.   Be well, and happy Canadain Thanksgiving to all.

 

Matt

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My approach to all such things as comma slices is to rutherlessly copy what published authors do. If you see it and read it in the fiction that you consume, then have at it - in my view :) 

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Hey Puddles,

Excited to read what you've got. I have no doubt that it will be thoroughly enjoyable. I'll try and provide good feedback. 

Overall thoughts:

  1. I like the characters: you seem to have stayed away from some of the tried and true archetypes and have created characters that are both interesting and have room to grow. Some writers lay everything about their character on the line in the first few pages and leave no reason for us to be interested in them. You give just enough insight to know who we should sympathise with and who we should hate, while stringing us along looking for more. Well done! I especially like Landon's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde vibe and look forward to how you tackle this character
  2. A few clumsy bits aside, I like your prose. It got better as I read, but by and large it seemed to flow
  3. I don't understand why Landon was in his comfy slippers if an entire constabulary (plus some members of the higher echelons) were after him. I hope this will be explained
  4. The fight scene was good in places, and a little confusing in others. Nothing a little read-over won't fix, though. 
  5. I'm looking forward to reading your next submission

As I go:

Landon

  • Immediately I like how you describe Landon. You give him very relatable, understandable emotions; agonising over a letter sent to (I presume) a loved one is something that many readers would have done and you describe it quite eloquently. Well done
  • "...research in his legacy, but could he handle what he found?" This just screams full stop. Try and keep the sentences punchy when you're aiming for impact
  • You set up the conflict well, but I'd use something I learned from Patrick Rothfuss (who, incidentally you MUST read if you haven't already!!) One thing he does wonderfully is use all five senses to set a scene. If you delved into how quiet the scene was before he first heard the thunk, the impact would be much greater
  • "Landon shouted, and then he darted at the men." Again, long, flowery phrases have their place, but when you are writing an action scene, you want it short, sharp and brisk. Otherwise the writing lags and the reader loses their sense of pace. 
  • "Landon's left hand ached." This is the sort of niggly thing that is most effective when it's only noticed after the battle. When a man's adrenaline's running high and they are focussed on surviving or protecting someone they love, people tend not to notice these little niggles.
  • A few word choices in the fight scene could be improved. For example, Landon "jamming his pelvis" into the constable's gut? That conjured a rather inappropriate (and hilarious) mental image
  • The fight scene where Landon has to try and save his daughter sucked me in, which was good. I like your prose and descriptive talents. I do think Landon swung from enraged, to meek, to enraged again perhaps a bit too quickly, but given the circumstances, it was acceptable. The whole thing could do with some wordsmithing here and there, but overall, I liked it

Raist

  • "He'd never seen that before." Implied by his disbelief that Landon withstood two blasts
  • I don't have much of a feel for Raist's character. He could be a good guy who is just unpleasant (a hard character to get right) or he could be a bad guy. He seems to place a great importance on discipline, but his comment about framing the scene so bandits could be blamed gives him a shifty feel. Wish I had more insight into his character here

Reynauld

  • Interesting that Raist calls Reynauld "my Lord." He seems like a slothful, drunken character to me, one that someone as iron-willed as Raist would quickly dispose of (perhaps he's a loyal attack dog who does not question his station?). The image I had was of Mr Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean, when he's introduced sleeping with pigs in Tortuga!
  • Ah, the introduction of marbled floors and layered silks make me change my image. Perhaps include that earlier; it would be an interesting juxtaposition
  • I have to admit I was struggling not to skim through the sections of exposition at the start of Reynauld's second chapter. You're dropping in a lot of names without much context. I'd like to have some idea where all these places and who all these people were.
  • So now Reynauld is "your Grace," rather than "my Lord?" To quote the Duke of Wellington from Blackadder III "WHERE WERE YOU EDUCATED, THE DAGO DANCING CLASS???" Joking aside, ensure that you keep these things consistent, or if Reynauld has more than one title, perhaps list them in his introduction, like they do in Game of Thrones
  • I'm not sure how to imagine the Protectors. In my head they're heavily armed, elite guards, but I don't think I saw that anywhere. I'm getting a real Pope and Swiss Guard vibe to these characters. 
  • I'm not sure who's talking when Raist and Reynauld are discussing Lord Barryl. Perhaps clear that up a bit
  • It appears my earlier thoughts of Raist being a loyal attack dog were premature. If there's no reason for him to be so subservient, why does he? From what you've shown us, he could clearly knock this alcoholic boob off his feet in moments. Some context over why he holds such a thin sway over Raist would be good
  • I do like how you handled Landon's daughter's fate. A delicate way to broach (what I assume was) the death of a child. Be wary of the whole "women in fridges" argument; it's a trap I've fallen into myself
  • Borrowing from the Writing Excuses podcast, I think the ending would be more effective if you revealed what state Landon was in before ending the chapter. As it is, it comes across as a little anticlimactic.
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Thanks to everyone for such useful ideas and suggestions. 

In case you were curious:

Protectors are Swiss guard like.  Part of the culture is that no one but a soldier or a Paladar was allowed to wield a sword for hundreds of years.  The army was disbanded the morning that these events take place, and the 'constables' were mostly recruited from taverns and street gangs.  A few selects were chosen from the disbanded army or from the protective services of the clergy.  They are meant to come across as uneducated louts. 

The lack of training with a sword is part of the reason he could fight the way he did.  Almost no one knows what they are doing with a sword.  

The chapter was pieced together and presented out of order from the actual story. In my version, they open the door and go talk to Landon.  

My story is currently pushing 320 000 words and has 12 POV characters.  It is the epic tale I'm probably not skilled enough to write yet, and I don't care.  I love writing it. 

Raist has been a 'general' for about 6 hours at this point.  His constabulary force contains less than 300 men and is highly disorganized.  Prior to this, he double as a low noble and as Raynauld's 'go get this done' guy and is still struggling wiht his new role. 

The girl lives.  Raist hides that fact from Raynauld...who wanted to use her an offering. Normally you would have read the chapter where the Protagonist finds Cella safe, unhurt, and scared in the field outside Landon's home, 

 

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On 10/10/2016 at 2:38 AM, Robinski said:

My approach to all such things as comma slices is to rutherlessly copy what published authors do. If you see it and read it in the fiction that you consume, then have at it - in my view :) 

 
 
 

Thank you!

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