Blackhands - Till 1-4 - Yados - 12/26/16 - 5,750 words (optional)

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Hi all!

First, a disclaimer: This is long. 5,750-ish words. The chapters themselves are quite short and they combine into a contained arc/vignette. For that reason, I wanted to present the whole for critique rather than the parts.
That said, here’s the deal: 
Only read the fourth chapter if you feel like I’ve earned it and you personally want a resolution. Optional. That it keeps it well under the 5k limit. 
What I’m going for:
I’m going for a feeling of something more than a hard plot. That’s just how my brain sees stories. This is either going to be the second in a set of alternating PoV’s or a “part 2” of the book itself so there would be at least one other PoV alternating or having completed an arc prior to this. But Till is easier for me to write so I did his first.
The other PoV is a guardsman who runs afoul of Roah and Horst, who are in the fourth chapter. I say this to point out that those characters would have been introduced previously and Roah’s psychic powers would likely have been established more clearly before that interaction. It’s not her character introduction is what I’m saying. 
What I’m looking for:
Basically, just big picture… Did it scan? Did you buy in? Like I said, I’m more feelings centered than world or plot, but for that to work, I need it to *work* because if it doesn’t come off as sad and remorseful and evoke of those things, I look silly. 
So, did it do that? 
There’s not much world stuff (I wanted to prologue to dump most of it so I didn’t have to in the actual narrative) but it would good to know if any of the little things were interesting or confusing. 
The writing style is far more constrained than the prologue. Did you prefer this? Am I still putting too much of a flourish on everything or am I tamping it down too hard in places?
That’s about it. I’m really interested in getting feedback on this because the prologue didn’t represent the kind of story I wanted to tell, but this is a bit closer to that ideal. Hopefully. 

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- The phrase "seductively familiar" isn't ringing true.  Till's thoughts seems too scrambled, and while it's an interesting idea, it doesn't seem cohesive enough in the first paragraph. Why does what's left of the dress shop seem both seductive and yet familiar?

- The rest of it reads really good. I like the flow of the description, and the characterization of Till and Surr as they are described and interact.

- Definitely curious what the Word entails.

- "They had never spoken. He supposed that wouldn’t change because there are some things that just don’t." Feels a little bit redundant. It could have just as simply been 'They have never spoken'. Also feels a bit disappointed since the previous sentences implies they had some shared history.

- So far I'm liking this story. It has a nice noir vibe to it, with kind of a Clive Barker feel maybe? But that could be just me.

- "Because they were none of them those things in truth." I would cut this line, because the detail about even his tattoo twitching is enough.

- I like this story a lot. The tone is really, really good. I'm curious what's involved in the auditing, who all of Till's colleagues are, everything about it is really, really intriguing. There's some formatting that needs to be done and probably some prose that needs reworked, but overall, it's a very enjoyable start. Good work! 


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I like your writing style and authorial voice. The prose was very engaging. The actual plot doesn't seem to be there, although the characters are quite vivid at times. After these four chapters I really don't know what is at stake, or where the book is going. The first two chapters were really solid, and then it started to wander. 

Specifically to your questions: I need some semblance of purpose to really connect with characters, and I was mostly confused for the second half of this vignette. The world has a distinct noir feel, which is good, but I need some why in there, or the characters are just nameless talking heads. I liked the first chapter the most, as it had a lot of good description and voice to it, and it had a ton of potential. As the chapters wore on and no plot surfaced, it became harder and harder to focus. 

Overall though, it has a ton of potential! Looking forward to reading more!

As I go

- props for a good opening line on a cold open

- page two: rather than covert, perhaps?

- chapter one: it starts strong, and ends strong, and the writing is engaging, but I don't get a solid sense of the plot of the book or the stakes for our MC in this first chapter. At a book store, I would be wary at this point, but still keep reading because the prose is sound

- chapter two starts slow

- end of chapter two. It's interesting, but I am not connecting with the MC. Some form of plot should be appearing by now. Still great writing and very smooth read

- page eleven, you ask the 'why would she take the Word off the board' question twice

- page twelve: its hard to build tension about someone wanting to kill our MC when I don't really have any affection for him yet

- page thirteen: I am thoroughly confused at this point

- chapter three: didn't really seem to advance any sort of plot. It was hard to stay focused

- there are so many names in such a short period of time. I can't keep them straight

- I'm not actually sure what happened in chapter four


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Very similar comments to @kaisa (as usual).

Good writing style--it pulls you in.

Lots of description of the Titled People--can't really keep them all straight and they probably don't need that much intro.

pg 11-13: getting a bit lost in the plot. Most of it has been description until now, and now you're describing specific events in vague ways, and I'm not familiar with them.

Chapter 4: a lot of the same feeling as the end of the last chapter. I'm sort of lost, and feel like there's a lot of story I'm missing. I read the prologue, and I'm not sure where/how this ties in.

Overall, as kaisa says, It's easy to read and the characters are real, but I need some plot to know what's going on. Right now I'm completely lost, though I do like Til as presented to us.


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All right, you've got some buy-in from me on the epigraph, though I think the actual phrasing could use some smoothing.

I feel like if you're going to use a word like seductively here, you're going to need to be a little more lush with your descriptions right out of the gate. You're not wholly coming up short, but I think if you took the space that you're devoting to meandering in your prose and just sank it into really layering it on here, you'd probably sell it better. You don't need to do a lot more here, but I think a bit more would make it pop.

I appreciate a main character with a disability, particularly one where it's an actual impediment to the things they want to do. I'm hoping this comes out well.


Skint is, I think, just uncommon enough a word that seeing it so many times in such rapid succession is a bit odd. Might change it up a little. You've got a good feel going on here otherwise though. Very fluid.


Yeah, you've got me on this.


Your prose is getting a little bit more awkward here; 'Till didn't like being touched' is telly and probably cuttable with only minor adjustment to the following sentence, discernable from context. The description of the Surr's robes feels kind of off, too, that whole half of the paragraph.

Am I intended to be reading attraction from the way Till's describing Surr? I like it if I am; would call it a selling point. I could ship this.


Ohh, please don't do mirror descriptions. I think you've got a solid chapter close at the end of the last page.


The first paragraph after the epigraph here is pure clunk. Starting too many sentences with conjunctions successively in the second, too; I'm far from a stickler on this but if you do it too much in rapid succession it makes sentences feel disjointed. I think some smoothing up here would help out the bottom of the page too; it took me a bit to figure out what was going on with this.


Yeah, I think part of this is that so far I don't know why I care about these people. This is just a list and you're doing some decent work to make them ominous (though the 'Just look at the Shriek' sentence near the top is, I think, not entirely sensical) but none of that... ominosity is landing. I don't know why these people are not to be trifled with aside from that the text is suggesting I should have that takeaway.


I could ship this, too.


Okay but I don't feel like this chapter actually accomplished anything. I'm enjoying reading, and I don't mind things taking their time, but this chapter was pretty much entirely 'Till walks into a room. Till looks around that room and catelogues the people within that room.'


Yeah, I feel like you could cut that whole previous chapter to a few paragraphs, a page tops, and just led right into this and there would not really be a meaningful loss.


DIscreet, unless you're going for the pun, which I think you are not.

That said, this page has the feel of information being witheld. I really, really, really don't feel a need for extra worldbuilding to be shoehorned into this (via prologue or otherwise) but right now this feels like your POV characters knows pertinent things that he's not sharing with the class, so to speak. To wit, it seems like this thing with a stolen word is something we should already know of, or we should have already had Till surmise by now.

Little over-explanatory with the dialogue to the bottom of the page though.


Ayami's sounding a little stilted on this page, especially her big paragraph. I realize some of this is a mandatory formalism, but it still feels a bit out in spots.


On the one hand, I like the ramble that this ends off on, and I like the cadence you've got here. But on the other hand, I don't like how it doesn't really fit well with the rest of the text styling previous.


Just generalized prose clunk here, nothing I'm going to sweat over.


I feel like your shorter sentences are your weaker ones, on the whole; they're coming out too uninflected, procedural, blah. This happens then this then this. The few following 'he unsheathed the sword' are in that vein, not loving that.


Littttttttle too maid-and-butler on this. Some of this is good, but some of this smells too heavily of explaining things both parties already know and don't need stated.


Same here. Talking a bit too much, going on a bit too long, I think.


But this is good.

Overall, barring the misstep that is the second chapter, I'm feeling a good overview, a good introduction to what I expect are going to be our main players here; this doesn't feel so much like a self-contained vignette so much as establishment of the playing field. Don't worldbuild more, don't throw down an explanatory prologue. You're breadcrumbing setting pretty well throughout this, don't go back and pin in hand-holding. I like this, it's slick and clean for a draft and it's got a personality to it. This is better by far than the prologue from before.


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Hey everyone!

Thank you so much for the feedback and especially for getting through all these pages! I am sorry I disappeared right after that ask, but post-Christmas seems to mean tired family members in close proximity with all the magic of the season worn off and we all know what that means. I just now got back into town feeling vaguely human and getting to this week's submissions. You're all champs.




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Hello hello Yados! Looking forward to seeing your writing!

Sorry to be rather late to the party. I enjoyed the thrill of the holidays a bit more than was healthy, I think. Everything is sore.

Only several hours remain till 2016 is wiped away from the present. May the next year treat you well.

On to the story!


The writing is pretty smooth. I've been reading all the submissions aloud this week. When spoken, I tripped up in a few places near the beginning, and had to quietly read those parts to myself to get the picture.

I think it was word repetition that hit me, such as the "had been" that was used thrice in a sentence from the first paragraph, and also appear a fourth time at the beginning of the following sentence.

In the third and fourth pages, I got a bit lost in who was speaking from moment to moment. I noticed that the conversation was mostly used to show the viewpoint character's thoughts and memories, but when I focused on that I lost sight of who the pronouns represented.

Love the end of chapter 1. It made me feel very chipper and excited. I guess that's a bit ironic on my part, but yes I enjoyed it.

Chapter two was fantastic. It's gruesome, sure, but so very pretty.

Chapter three was a bit slower to start. I'm mostly riding the high from chapter two as I go through it. I think it's the interaction of the first half. Although I like the response that ended the conversation, there was a lot of explaining. Every word and silence came with a thought or description of why it existed, so I didn't get much chance to guess and come to my own conclusions. Half of that is on me, though, since I like subtlety and mystery in interactions more than immediate clarity.


Oh, quick tangent, I hear fireworks outside. The New Year celebration has begun in my neighborhood.


Chapter four's starting bump is one of my favorites.

Seventeenth page, also got a bit lost on the dialogue. I don't have the character voices keyed, so I can't be sure who is talking if it isn't noted. Other than that, chapter four's content seemed straightforward. Political status and one more major character introduction.


Overall, there's a lot of glimpses into who the viewpoint character is, which I'm sure was your goal. Good read.

I'm probably not the ideal audience, since I'm amused whenever I find myself immersed in a grim narrative (though horror movies and games strike legitimate terror in my heart). I can't say for sure if there is any legitimate sorrow, but I'm certain that your character elicits pity. The world never seems to work out the way he expects, and it's always unexpected in a way that hurts him more. That small victory of peace at the end of chapter four was enough of a difference to be glad for him, but he's still pitiful afterwards.


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On to the next part.

Till - 1

  • I like the epigraph. Punchy and full of conflict, promises tension and violence.
  • I’m getting confused. It’s a bright morning nearby, but not here?
  • He’s limping, that’s a pretty good advert for weakness. At least the cane can be used as a weapon.
  • I like your description/introduction to the brothel, nicely done. I’m feeling it. I do however always seem to feel like I’m hovering on the edge of not understanding. I think an editing pass for clarity would be a good thing, refinement of language, tightening is a word I’m using a lot recently. That comes with a language edit, I suppose.
  • I don’t know whether Surr is male or female for a long time into the meeting. Also, ‘nicer bottles’ doesn’t convey much at all. I don’t know if it’s wine (unlikely if it’s stored behind the bar, could be red, I suppose, or badly kept white), or spirits and if so of what stripe. This is a good opportunity for a little light world-building / local colour.
  • Ooh – I once got a row from @Kaisa for setting a scene (several, in fact) in a tavern. Now, I guess you’re in a brothel here, but it’s still a bar, so I’ll be interested to see what reaction you get.
  • “turned to look at the kind of person he would have been if he'd stayed” – like this line, and the one slightly after when he wonders what he looks like. These are nice character touches, imho.
  • Increasingly in this first part (and hopefully in the writing going forward), I find nice language and subtle phrases, nice lines that reveal character and hint at background in quite a compact way. I find I’m getting a pleasing sense of Till, Surr and A that makes me want to know more about them and the situation that brings them together. With a pass or three on grammar, typos and tightening/refinement, I feel there is some very nice work here.
  • “he pissed more than he had thought he needed to” – this is what I’m talking about. Great line, fresh, tells me something about Till and makes me smile. “He hadn’t had plans for years.” – yeah, this too.

Till - 2

  • “It was validating to be replaced by two people…” – Lol – nice line.
  • “you could see the rest of the blow that had taken it in the scar that ran down her lips and onto her neck” – I’m trying to decide if this line is just great, or something more. If I call it ‘fantastic’, is it the glass-and-a-half of sauvignon blanc talking? How will I feel about it in the morning? Who cares? Right now, this is a fantastic line, well done. For me, it really sings.
  • “which was exactly what she was doing to the poor wretch…” – Boom! Ouch. This is the way to introduce a character. You’ve already set her up as a bit fascinating, but now she is a stone-cold killer too.
  • Ahem, right, this is getting a bit weird. If you told me you had wiped my memory of the last 24 hours, then told me that, during those 24 hours, I had written this paragraph, I would believe you. I don’t say this to sound conceited, but I just feel this is so close the style that I’m pushing towards. I would be pleased, then I would start editing.
  • “He was in love.” – I like how you earned the right to use this phrase completely free from fromage, because of what lead up to it.
  • “rust” – Ha-ha, I think I have three or four chapters in TMM that end like this.

Till - 3

  • I’ll lay myself open to the brickbats and those other things that go with them, but this is the way to avoid male gaze, for me, “She smelled amazing” – this said, I am not the adjudicator of these things, so I’ll be fascinated to read the other comments on the thread.
  • “reminded him of things it used to make him feel” – (thumbs up).
  • No, you’ve lost me there. The stuff about the assassin and the canticle. I came off the rails there, lost the thread.
  • “Always clean.” – No, why wouldn’t they be? Mmm, I’m thinking of toilet hygiene at this point, but I shouldn’t be.
  • “illicit substances and physical comfort” – tee hee.
  • “smashed his cup” – isn’t it a glass if he’s drinking the same liquor?

Till - 4

  • “bleeding out like art” – no debate over this one, fantastic line.
  • A few good lines and nice touches, and just as much untidy stuff that needs editing, imho, but I still get the nice chewed-off hard-boiled noir vibe that I’ve been enjoying from the start of the narrative (as opposed to the prologue).

Summary, I really enjoyed it, and I’d love to see it again in two versions time. Where are you at with the overall story. Dare I hope that this is a finished work? I sense not from the seeming deceleration in submitting, but I’m interested to know.

So, I shall go check out the comments now before moving on to the Lyan segments, but I want to close by saying nice job, I enjoyed it.



Edited by Robinski

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2 minutes ago, Robinski said:

Ooh – I once got a row from @Kaisa for setting a scene (several, in fact) in a tavern.

I can't even remember why I would have pinged that. Was I arguing about whiskey? Or was it your busty pious barmaid?


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Just now, kaisa said:

Was I arguing about whiskey? Or was it your busty pious barmaid?

We might have been arguing about whisky, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of whiskey.

Yeah , it was Waifs and Strays, maybe just one (or two) too many scenes in the/a tavern. Perhaps fair point, although I tended towards feeling that it didn't matter where a couple of those scenes took place, to which you would very reasonably respond "Well set them somewhere else then!" - I suppose :P 


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