MistbornAlpaca

11/13/17 - MasterJack - Prologue - 1,793 Words - (V)

11 posts in this topic

 

This is my first time submitting, and I'm also a very new writer, so hopefully, I formatted everything correctly.

There's not any more violence than an average epic fantasy, and it's nothing graphic, but it's in there, so I just thought I'd flag that.
 
Let me know what you think. The main thing I'm looking for in this first draft is what promises I'm making for the rest of the story.
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First off, welcome to Reading Excuses!

My thoughts as I went:

Pg. 1 "... keeping this desolate planet alive." This implies to me that as the story progresses, we will be made aware of, and probably visit other (non-desolate) planets. If that wasn't your intention, I would use the word 'world' instead; it has fewer science-fiction connotations.

Pg. 1 "The most precious artifact is at risk, nonetheless from the Master of the Swifters, and they send me four guards." The phrasing here feels awkward to me. Maybe "... at risk, from the Master of the Swifters him/herself, and..."

Pg. 1 "The guards would do the same he knew." should be "The guards would do the same, he knew."

Pg. 2 The latter half of this page builds tension very effectively.

Pg. 3 "He moved into the blow, moving his hand through the tendril." Repetition of 'move' is awkward.

Pg. 3 "seemed as hard as sandstone, to a Slasher" should be either "seemed as hard as sandstone, but to a Slasher" or "seemed as hard as sandstone. To a Slasher"

Pg. 3 "The tendril impaled him," makes it sound like the tendril had rammed through his chestplate without impaling him, came back around, and then impaled him. I like the visceral feel the word lends, though, so maybe the sentence should start, "The tendril lifted the impaled guard into the air..."

Pg. 3 "the free end dissolved into sand, filling the room with a thick cloud of dust." I would remove "into sand," it feels redundant.

Pg. 3 "He could barely make out another guard being smashed around the room. His mask had cracked" Pronouns are unclear here. Change it to "The guard's mask had cracked."

Pg. 3 "He rolled under another tendril," I would specify "TonHar rolled..." When you have several people in the previous paragraph, it's good to start with a proper noun for clarity.

Pg. 4 "he formed it into a spear in his hand, the power of a Slasher, creating something from pure sandstone." Badass.

Pg. 4 "Toward Master FangTar" need a period at the end there.

Pg. 4 "lunged forward, throwing the spear forward" Repetition of 'forward' is awkward.

Pg. 4 "The sand ran up his body and his arm, forming into a thin shield of loose sand as TonHar struck. The sand formed around his spearhead, jerking it to the left, and throwing TonHar with it." I'm having trouble visualizing this. Does FangTar have a layer of sand around his arm, which then flows onto the spear, and pushes it aside?

Pg. 4 "TonHar matched the other man’s tone" Really? We already know that TonHar is eighty-five. Calling FangTar "the older man" would imply that he's older by several years. I would expect that the life expectancy would be lower on a world hanging on to the last vestiges of its life. Does the Life Stone increase the life expectancy of those living around it? Do masters live longer than normal people? Are the years on this planet just shorter than average? Also, these two men seem fairly active for their eigth or ninth decade. This isn't a huge issue, but I feel like I need one or two lines of exposition earlier to explain it.

Edit: I stupidly misread 'other' as 'older.' Please disregard what I said above.

Pg. 4 The dialogue here feels stilted. Not sure how to describe it better than that.

Pg. 5 "I will not fail. I can’t fail!" I would change to "I cannot fail!" Like you did with 'will not,' the longer form gives it a greater sense of determination. Also, consider putting TonHar's thoughts in italics.

Pg. 5 "It was cold and sharp like his voice." I really like this simile. However, I think it flows slightly better as "It was as cold and sharp as his voice."

Pg. 5 "He put the stone into a pendant around his neck." I'm not sure where I want FangTar to put it, but seeing as the Stone is the size of a man's fist, it seems a little to large to wear on a pendant.

Pg. 6 "He kicked TonHar, and he sprawled backward, groaning." should be "He kicked TonHar, who sprawled backward, groaning." for clarity.

Pg. 6 "He put his hand out and sandstone formed there into a sword." Two things here. First, the sentence should start with "FangTar put his..." since 'he' referred to TonHar in the last sentence. Secondly, I initially thought that FangTar was altering the form of TonHar's sword, rather than creating sandstone out of nothing. I might change the sentence to "FangTar reached out, and another sandstone sword flared into existence in his grasp."

Pg. 6 "He didn’t moan or whimper. He had heard people did that when they died, but he didn’t. He didn’t know why, he didn’t care why, he was dying," This bit feels odd. If it's not necessary to the plot, I would consider replacing it with something else, maybe a reflection on how TonHar doesn't care that he's dying, but he does care that he's failed.

Pg. 7 "He had failed to do his duty, and that was all that mattered. 'May the Sands have mercy on me,' he gasped with his last breath." I really like this ending. It drives home everything we've learned in this prologue. TonHar failed, he's dying, and we're in a harsh, unforgiving desert that's going to get even harsher now that the Life Stone is gone. Well done.

Overall:

I really liked this. It introduced the villain, the world, and the magic concisely, but leaves me wanting more of all of them. Specifically, Fangtar seemed capable and menacing, especially with how quickly he grapsed how to use the additional powers conferred to him by the Life Stone. As he's presented here, I'm not sure whether he's power hungry, afraid of death, or trying to save his world (just to be clear, I see this as a positive. All we really know about him now is that he needs the Life Stone for his plans, but the plans themselves are a mystery, one which can be revealed throughout the course of the book).

I like the desert setting. The whole 'desolation vs. life' thing always lends itself well to symbolism. My one complaint is that I would have liked to have seen the outside at the start of the chapter. I'm assuming that the removal of the Life Stone is going to have serious consequences for the Last City, and it would be nice to know what the city looks like before, so that we can be properly shocked and devastated by the after.

Finally, the magic is awesome. I can already see that the world is impacted by the magic, like how the guards wear sandstone chestplates that were presumably formed by a Swifter. I can see the protagonist, whoever he/she may be, using this magic in some really clever ways. I like the mystique surrounding the Life Stone, how even the Master tasked with guarding it doesn't fully understand the powers it bestows. On that note, though, the ability to create sandstone out of nothing does make me a little uneasy. The way its used here is fine, but if FangTar can just create buildings out of nothing with his mind, it seems a bit over powered. Also, though I'm sure we'll get it in the rest of the novel, I'm really curious where the names 'Swifter', 'Slasher', and 'Thumper' come from, and what a Thumper can do.

In conclusion, this was a strong first entry, and I'm excited to see where it goes.

Edited by Paracosmic_nomenclator
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Thanks, @Paracosmic_nomenclator for all your comments! I tend to ignore grammar and phrasing in the first draft (which this was) but all of these phrasings you suggested really help! I'm going to go through here and give my thoughts on your comments. There are a few things I would like some suggestions on.

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Pg. 1 "... keeping this desolate planet alive." This implies to me that as the story progresses, we will be made aware of, and probably visit other (non-desolate) planets. If that wasn't your intention, I would use the word 'world' instead; it has fewer science-fiction connotations.

This is pure fantasy, so I'll definitely change that to the world, thanks!

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Pg. 4 "The sand ran up his body and his arm, forming into a thin shield of loose sand as TonHar struck. The sand formed around his spearhead, jerking it to the left, and throwing TonHar with it." I'm having trouble visualizing this. Does FangTar have a layer of sand around his arm, which then flows onto the spear, and pushes it aside?

Just to clarify here, and I'll have to change the wording so it makes sense in the .doc. The sand is running up FanTar's body, forming a shield, which TonHar's spear hits, and the shield kind of melts around the spearhead. This is what I was visualizing as I wrote this, so I'll have to change the wording there, but thanks for pointing that out.

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Pg. 5 "He put the stone into a pendant around his neck." I'm not sure where I want FangTar to put it, but seeing as the Stone is the size of a man's fist, it seems a little to large to wear on a pendant.

Thanks for catching that. This definitely suggests a very large pendant, or that the Stone has changed sizes, so I'll have to think about what I want to do here...

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Pg. 6 "He didn’t moan or whimper. He had heard people did that when they died, but he didn’t. He didn’t know why, he didn’t care why, he was dying," This bit feels odd. If it's not necessary to the plot, I would consider replacing it with something else, maybe a reflection on how TonHar doesn't care that he's dying, but he does care that he's failed.

Not sure why I put this in here actually, thanks for the suggestion on what to replace it with.

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

I like the desert setting. The whole 'desolation vs. life' thing always lends itself well to symbolism. My one complaint is that I would have liked to have seen the outside at the start of the chapter. I'm assuming that the removal of the Life Stone is going to have serious consequences for the Last City, and it would be nice to know what the city looks like before, so that we can be properly shocked and devastated by the after

Let me explain what the Life Stone does here, and you can give me your thoughts on how to make this more clear, or at least remove the desire to see the city first.

My basic idea for the Life Stone is that, beyond providing raw power, it finds/creates water, which is put into the city well somehow, (not sure on that part yet) and the reason the city is going to die without it is because the well will dry up, and this is the only city on a desolate world of endless sand, totally devoid of water. That's how the Life Stone influences the lives of the people in the city.

Any suggestions on how to change this to suit my purpose better?

1 hour ago, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Finally, the magic is awesome. I can already see that the world is impacted by the magic, like how the guards wear sandstone chestplates that were presumably formed by a Swifter. I can see the protagonist, whoever he/she may be, using this magic in some really clever ways. I like the mystique surrounding the Life Stone, how even the Master tasked with guarding it doesn't fully understand the powers it bestows. On that note, though, the ability to create sandstone out of nothing does make me a little uneasy. The way its used here is fine, but if FangTar can just create buildings out of nothing with his mind, it seems a bit over powered. Also, though I'm sure we'll get it in the rest of the novel, I'm really curious where the names 'Swifter', 'Slasher', and 'Thumper' come from, and what a Thumper can do

First off, thanks! Second of all, I'm glad the impact of the magic came across, I was really trying to convey that and I'm pleased it worked. Third, the ability to create sandstone out of nothing is something I'm still tweaking and toying with, and I agree that it's probably overpowered. I'm trying to find some other power, maybe just the combined powers of all the Orders, not sure on that one yet... The names of the powers/Orders are the first things that came to mind when I thought of this idea about a year ago, and I'm not super happy with them, so any suggestions would be appreciated. 

Summary: This gave the effect I was hoping for, and I'm very thankful for all of your comments and suggestions!

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Welcome!

I think @Paracosmic_nomenclator nailed pretty much all the points I had, so I wouldn't rehash them. I would add that on page 5. "I will not fail. I can't fail! He told himself" I would do like Para said, but also italicise it to make it clear that it's an internal thought and dialogue.

Loved the magic system. As soon as you started to describe it all I could think about was Gara from Naruto who is one of my all-time favorite anime characters :)

Kudos, and I'm super excited to learn about the world

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Thanks @TKWade! No idea who Gara is, as I don't watch anime, but I'm glad you liked the story, and I'm glad to be here!

I'd also just like to apologize for spamming your inbox with FOUR of my emails. I was getting an error every time I sent it saying it couldn't be sent. That's what was going on, sorry for blowing your inboxes up. -_-

Edited by MasterJack
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Hello and welcome to Reading Excuses! 

 

Overall I found this piece difficult to get into. I never really got a clear idea of who these people were beyond their titles, which mean nothing to me at the moment.  I have no frame of reference for the setting beyond a sentence or two at the beginning. I have nothing to latch onto with the characters, so it feels like I'm watching an unfamiliar video game, where there are no stakes and the violence doesn't matter. 

The premise seems interesting, and I don't have a problem starting a story in the middle of a siege (I think it's a siege? Or a coup? Or a terrorist attack? Maybe?), but for me, I would need more feeling from the characters to understand and sympathize with them enough to care about the subsequent fight. 

 

Here are soem as-I-go comments:

 

I'm at the end of the first paragraph and It sounds a lot like a science fiction opening. I agree 'world' or 'land' would keep it more firmly in fantasy.

", nonetheless from the Master " I'm afraid I can't quite parse what this sentence is getting at. Is the secret from the Master, or the soldiers? if it's the soldiers, then how is the artifact a secret, since it's presumably now on display for a bunch of random guards and whoever else comes into this room (alcove? palace? temple?)?

"Master of the Swifters" Seriously no joke, when I first read that I read it as "Swiffers," like the dustmop for hardwood floors, and it has made this entire section unintentionally hilarious. I'm sorry. XD

Some grammar issues throughout -- pronoun agreement, capitalization, stuff like that -- but you said this was a first draft, so I won't get into them

There's a decent amount of repetition throughout the piece as well. Repetition in words and phrases can sometimes help establish a rhythm in writing, but if it's unintentional, it can break immersion as repeated words stand out and draw attention to the words themselves instead of the story.

"I guess you would prefer to die then" Yes. he has stated that he is willing to die multiple times. And does so again directly after this line. This feels like a bit of a "boy who cried wolf" issue here. He's said he's willing to die so many times that it starts to lose meaning, and he keeps going with it to the point that I'm wondering if he's a bit suicidal? Or if he doesn't know what those words mean? 

Okay, I know this is pedantic. It's pedantic and quibbling, and it's not an important part of the story, especially at first draft stage, but ... It's ... just bothering the heck out of me and sand and dust are not the same things! Argh, there! I said it. But they're not the same. At. All. Compositionally, size-wise, any of it! And if you want a sedimentary stone that breaks down into dust-sized particles, you're looking at a shale or a siltstone. Sandstone has some dust-sized particles in it acting as a glue for the bigger particles, but that's, like, the definition of a sandstone -- sedimentary rock containing bigger sand-size particles held together with smaller colloidal particles.... Sorry. Pedantic rant over.

"into a pendant" That's one big pendant! Did he just happen to have a setting hanging around in just the right size for the secret artifact? I'm slightly confused by what part of the life-giving stone is secret? It's mentioned in the beginning that the "secret" is what he's willing to die for, but it seems like everyone knows all about this thing he's fighting to protect.

"lunged again toward the Master" I'm unclear on the blocking in this fight. I don't really have a clear sense of the space it's happening in, and from the way the fight went to this point, I was under the impression that the other guy had already left the area when he lunged. 

"reached into the ground beside him" Who is doing what now? I don't understand what's going on in this whole paragraph. It seems like it would be an important paragraph, too, so I'm a bit frustrated.

 

To answer your questions

1) Is it interesting -- to me, not as such. There's a good premise, but as it stands right now, I'm not involved in any of the characters, and there isn't enough about the location to make me want to read past the fight to get to the setting. This feels like a piece in a video game designed to show off game mechanics and finishing moves, and for me, that alone isn't enough to make me want to keep going. Plus, the POV character dies at the end of the chapter, so any sympathy I'd been building for him is lost and the only things getting me to the next chapter would be setting or plot. For me, neither of those are fleshed out enough to keep me interested. Sorry.

2) Promises -- well, assuming this isn't a stand-alone piece, my assumption would be the stone is returned by a doughty and ragtag band of heroes, with or without the eventual avenging of the death at the end of this chapter. The villain is presumably the one who stole the stone, who will likely lord it over everyone else, possibly with an evil speech of evil or two. I'm unclear what his motives are beyond "Evil!" ... Maybe he wants the entire planet to himself so he's causing genocide to do it? The ragtag band of young stalwarts will possibly find a new way to use magic and fix the broken world, too, but that might take a while. 

 

The first chapter can be one of the toughest to get right, so keep at it! I'm looking forward to seeing more from you.:) 

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Welcome to Reading Excuses!
 

I thought this was a good piece for a new writer. You kept my attention pretty well, by ratcheting up the tension. I think @Paracosmic_nomenclator covered a lot of the technical details, and I would add that I thought, like @industrialistDragon, that the fight perhaps went on too long without establishing more of why things were happening, rather than how.

I was also intrigued by the magic. It reminded me a little of Sanderson's White Sand magic system, though it's certainly different.

My biggest complaints with this were:

1) TonHar doesn't act like an 85 year old. His thoughts are much younger and threw me out of the story. Especially for someone who is supposedly master of an art or magic, I would think he'd be a lot calmer, from learning how to control himself.

2) Action vs. character building: This prologue does move things along and get us interested in the story, which is what a prologue should do. I'd still like a few more paragraphs to make us care about the characters. Why are we rooting for TonHar? Why is FangTar trying to rule the world (or whatever). Which leads me into the last point...

3) Old white guys. As far as I could tell, everyone in this prologue was a male. The focus characters were old white dudes with beards (at least the way I was visualizing them). This has been done before, and I'd be much more excited to see old tough women fighting, or maybe that one discipline is women only, vs men, or even just that some of the guards, or either T.H. or F.T. is female. Or diverse, or POC, or etc...

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "angled masks"
--angled how?

pg 1: "they send me four guards"
--slight POV problem. This part should either be in italics or it should be in the third person.

pg 1: paragraph 3 is sort of an infodump. You set up the scene well, and I want to see what happens, and see how the stone is used rather than getting told about it.

pg 3/4: "TonHar yelled in frustration," "TonHar screamed and lunged forward"
--Master TonHar doesn't seem like the type to scream and yell. He seems more calm and collected.

pg 5: "I will not fail. I can’t fail! He told himself. "
--again, this sounds like a much younger person, not an 85-year old.

pg 6: "I have the Life Stone now, I have the powers of a Slasher, Thumper, and Swifter now. You are nothing to me.” "
--eh, this is a bit moustache-twirly...

pg 6: "He didn’t moan or whimper. He had heard people did that when they died, but he didn’t."
--this is at odds with all the screaming and yelling.

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I enjoyed the prologue @MasterJack

 

As I go:

 

I found "Master Ditanu TonHar" hard to pronounce, in the sense that I had no idea of how to go about pronouncing it and it threw me out of the story a little. I've been rereading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson out loud to someone and I've found the names in that hard to pronounce, so popular novels do include hard to pronounce names. In this case though it threw me off, but once I got past that I got into it.

By the end of the first paragraph I was drawn into the story. I don't know yet what expectations I have about it.

I was briefly thrown by the three clause sentence saying the guards had masks on and were hiding their expressions. Then when none of them answer his question my immediate thought is that they are going to turn on him, because non of them speak and we can't see their faces so we don't know who they are and they could be anyone. This didn't jump out to me on the reread though.

I felt myself skimming over the first paragraph on the second page, but then the action further down that page with Master FangTar coming pulled me back in. 

One thing I did wonder when FangTar appeared was whether the master of the monastery had the members follow them. In which case I wondered why Master FangTar was alone. Did the members of his monastery not follow him? I don't think this needs to be answered now, but if it (and similar questions) weren't answered for too long in the book I would feel like the author hadn't realised they were there, rather than had and was holding back the answers to a time they would fit well in the story. Not that every question has to be answered, especially in the introduction, but answering some of them convincingly is one of the things I look for in an author (and I feel one of the things to work out after first draft sometimes too). 


"To any normal person, it would have seemed as hard as sandstone, to a Slasher like himself, it was like a knife through Trak butter." page 3. I think this sentence begins saying that the tendril is as hard as sandstone, but that the Slasher's hand moves like a knife through butter, but the grammar of the sentence says it's the tendril moving like a knife through trak buttter. Knife and butter would need to be reversed or the sentence rewritten. No one else seems to have noticed this though, so I'm not sure. 

I picked up on the fact that the sand turned into dust too, and wondered if that was intentional or unintentional.

I felt that this bit of the fight flowed really well and drew me in. 

TonHar ducking the tendrils felt good and motiony to me, but I did wonder why he wasn't slicing them off in order to protect his men. If it is as easy to slice them off I would expect him to slice them off to protect the men. Is it just that he's not used to fighting a swifter with men around and so does what comes naturally? Then we have him watching other people, and the way I pictured him in my mind was just standing there watching people, which seems non-dynamic to me. I think that's because he looks after he ducked and then there's the long description, I'm not sure though. 

I feel like the fight scene picks up motion again. 

When FangTar says he asked that question to see if TonHar would be willing to side with him, I wonder why FangTar couldn't have approached him earlier before they were all at war. It seems odd to me to ask this question during a fight after he'd killed other people, rather than pre that. 

Then when FangTar says to TonHar, "You are nothing to me", and had felt he'd already said that when he was retrieving the lifestone by turning his back and not dealing with TonHar. 

For some reason, and I can't fully say why, I found "May the Sands have mercy on me" jarring. I think it's because I felt that the sands can only have mercy on you once you're alive, and if you die you not going out in the sand. However, if the Sands are their afterlife judging thing then I guess it would make sense. I'm not certain that's the thing that jarred me either, or even why it jarred me, which I realise isn't very useful but there it is. 

 

 

After I Went:

It drew me in. Bits of the fight scene really flowed for me, bits of it felt a bit more stilted. I found I skim read a few bits here and there, but that's normal for a first draft. I realise I said alot, but I feel like the two main things for me would be to make the rest of the fight as great as the great bits, and explain either now or later why FangTar's alone and why he didn't approach TonHar earlier (because that bit left me puzzling). 

The other thing that left me puzzling was why the guards were sent then. Had they only just heard, why hadn't the guards been there earlier? I think this question occurred to me on FangTar's approach once I realised that the guards weren't going to jump TonHar, but I'm not sure. 

I realise I'm in the minority but I personally wouldn't choose world over planet, I feel like both of them would give the feel of there being more, since some scifi and some dimension hopping fantasy use the word world instead of planet for a multitude. Perhaps land or something would be better? Then again, I'm in the minority so it's safe to ignore me.

Quote

The names of the powers/Orders are the first things that came to mind when I thought of this idea about a year ago, and I'm not super happy with them, so any suggestions would be appreciated. 

As for the Slashers and Swifters, I agree with how you feel about the name. I actually don't mind the Swifters name, but I do feel it doesn't quite describe what you've shown of the powers. If you plan on giving them English names based on what they do, maybe something like Builders for the Slashers (assuming they can leave the sandstone afterwards without it crumbling), Order of the Stone, or The Makers or something. Swifters could be something like Order of the Flow, manipulators, Sand as Liquid Order or something. Ok, none of these are particularly good ideas together. What is it that the Thumpers do? (Though I realise we might get to learn that in subsequent readings).

 

2) Did you find it interesting? Yes. Depending on what way you take the story afterwards it may or may not be to my tastes, but I did quite enjoy it. I also felt it had a lot of promise.

1) What promises am I making for rest of the story? Action, magic, a fight over a life stone and a dead city. I actually felt that the city would die straight away and so I'd expect everyone to be dispersed and a dead city, but reading your comment above I see that the life stone provides water and they might have up to a three month supply. I think the reason I thought it would be so quick is that the details of the life stone aren't particularly specific and that they grant it "water and life" which I read as granting the city magic to stay alive rather than a resevoir filled with water that they can survive on while they try to take it back.

I also feel like I would be expecting magic and fighting and coolness quickly. I know that Brandon Sanderson's prologue philosophy is that it promises what you're going to get towards the end of the story or series, and you can take books to get there potentially, but the way I always read prologues before that was that they should have some immediate reprecussions for the story earlier on. (In this case I imagine it will, as I imagine that the city will need to survive and 

By Brandon Sanderson's philosopy I would expect more of what @industrialistDragon said, with a ragtag bunch of heroes (especially an unlikely main one), that don't necessarily do that much related stuff for a while. If the stuff they were doing was really interesting I'd be down for that, but like I said I usually prefer it to be more related.

That said, if we then jump a few hundred years to something were people live in small moving villages and struggle really hard to survive, I guess it would suggest to me a theft of the life stone but for the good guys this time. 

Having said all this, since this is all just my opinion, you might want to ignore where I disagree with a bestselling author about what prologues are for. 

On a more prosaic note, since we won't see the prologue character again in viewpoint (which I don't have a problem with), I imagine there will be some viewpoint switching in the story. I probably wouldn't mind if there wasn't. 

I hope that was helpful and not too long. I enjoyed reading the prologue, I felt it was good for a first draft, and depending on where it goes really hope to see more. 
 

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Welcome to RE! It's great that you've taken the plunge to critique. Keep in mind that sometimes comments may seem harsh, but we're critiquing the work, not the writer. We all just want to help each other get better! Also, it's great to have new blood here!

 

Overall

I couldn't get into this story. I don't know enough about the stakes or the MC to care about what happens. The names were also... pretty silly, and kept throwing me from the narrative. Swifter sounds too much like Swiffer, Thumper will forever be the rabbit from Bambi, etc. 

On 11/14/2017 at 10:56 AM, industrialistDragon said:

Overall I found this piece difficult to get into. I never really got a clear idea of who these people were beyond their titles, which mean nothing to me at the moment.  I have no frame of reference for the setting beyond a sentence or two at the beginning. I have nothing to latch onto with the characters, so it feels like I'm watching an unfamiliar video game, where there are no stakes and the violence doesn't matter. 

This. This exactly. It read very much like a video game.

On 11/15/2017 at 10:56 AM, Mandamon said:

Old white guys. As far as I could tell, everyone in this prologue was a male. The focus characters were old white dudes with beards (at least the way I was visualizing them). This has been done before, and I'd be much more excited to see old tough women fighting, or maybe that one discipline is women only, vs men, or even just that some of the guards, or either T.H. or F.T. is female. Or diverse, or POC, or etc...

THIS. Tropes are great and all, but an all male cast unrealistic. Women make up 51% of the population, give or take (if you ignore nonbinary people). They should therefore make up 50% of your characters, unless you're writing in a gender specific arena, like an all boys school or something (and even then, they still have mothers and sisters and such). PoC also appear to be lacking, which is also vitally important. 

And tough old women fighting would be really fun and fresh! Golden Girls in sci fi I could so get behind.

As a final note, if you're writing this for fun, carry on! If you're looking to get published, know that prologues are pretty much dead. Agents won't even let you sub them anymore, so this could very well be cut and never even read. You might consider if it is truly necessary for the narrative and if so, turning it into chapter one.

 

As I go

- the slasher monastery? Every slasher movie ever is flashing in front of my eyes. Ninja slashers? Slashing the monastery decorations? Who is doing the slashing, why are they doing the slashing, and what purpose does the slashing serve? What is being slashed? I have so many questions.

- Swifter sounds an awful lot like swiffer...

- page three: I'm unclear what is happening. Also I don't know enough about our MC to care that things are happening to him. I need more stakes.

- page four: the dialogue is coming out as mostly stock phrases and cliche. Suggest trying to make it more normal

- Slasher, Thumper, and Swifter...these names are not super convincing and seem like basic household products. Consider renaming

- the sword turned into a pole.... just...imagery...

 

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Ahoy, Master Jack!! Welcome to RE. I always get excited to read a new author on here, so I’m pleased to delve into your first submission. Sorry these comments are so late: I blame Nanowrimo. Hopefully they are still useful. Onwards and upwards…

  • (Page 1, Paragraph 1, Line 1) – I saw there was comment on the character’s name. I don’t read posts before I read the submission, but I think I noticed this one when I was looking at your profile page. I like names, and I don’t mind complex ones. I believe that the key is for the reader to take a second or two to sound it out and get it right first time, then it should work going through the story. I learned this the hard way, by reading the entirety of Lord of the Rings believing that Strider’s true name was “Aragon”; it was many years before I noticed the other ‘r’ in ‘Aragorn’. Silly me. Sorry, that was rambling, but I think the name is good, and I think it’s a strong first line.
  • (Page 1, Para. 1) – I like the set up. I think it’s a strong opening. The last city on an entire planet, I think, evokes a strong sense of loneliness and isolation. I want to know more about what happened to the other cities. That’s a promise you have made to the reader, to answer that question at some point.
  • (P1,P1,L3) – I will say that ‘the Council’ is rather weak. 4 out of 5 SFF novels have a ‘Council’ in them. If you're familiar with the Reading Excuses podcasts, you may know the phrase ‘low hanging fruit’, as used fairly often by Howard Tayler. The Council feels a bit like the first name that came to mind, but there are many other names that that are less used that could create more atmosphere, catch the reader’s attention by being different. Just by way of example: conclave; gathering; congress; caucus. Just using a thesaurus might spark an idea that you find helps to enliven your story, give it depth, by not picking the low hanging fruit, but dispending with the 1st and 2nd choices and keeping looking for alternatives.
  • (1,2,2) – If TH says something to himself, it would not be in “quotes”, I think, but perhaps italics. If you're ever in doubt about something like that, the absolute best solution is to take a novel down off your shelf and see how published works deal with these things.
  • (1,2,4) – Why would the masked me answer, when he ‘said’ the words to himself? Unless, did he whisper them, sotto voce, for only him to hear? I did not get that from the way you phrased it.
  • (1,3,4) – I'm a little confused by some of the phrasing when he’s thinking about the stone. It sounded a bit to me like he was thinking about how he could be powerful, but actually, I think he was noting that an individual who stole the stone would be very powerful.
  • (1,4,1) – The ‘Slasher’ monastery struck me as an odd name, it sounds like violence is a religion. That makes me start to think about Warhammer, and things of that ilk.
  • (1,5,-) – By the end of Page 1, I am engaged enough to keep reading. I don’t know an awful lot about the world or the situation, but you’ve created enough tension and atmosphere to keep me reading. Good job, so far.
  • (2,1,8) – I like what he’s doing to ‘seal’ the Life Stone in the pedestal, but I was a bit disoriented, and did not quite see how things fitted together. It seems a complex thing to describe, and think it’s a decent effort but, for me, a dais is a bigger thing than what it seems to be here, which is a small, plate-sized(?), piece that the stone is resting on, which them drops into the pedestal? Also, tense. I think it’s ‘sank’ not ‘sunk’, personally. As an engineer, I enjoyed the twisting and clicking though. I think with some refining, that will be a neat passage.
  • (2,2,3) – I don’t know what a Swifter is, but it doesn’t sound all that threatening.
  • (3,1,2) – I think the doors blowing in is good, and it’s a moment of action early in the story, which also is good, but I think some of the description around the doors could be tidied up. There’s mention of ‘door’ and ‘doors’, then there’s the reference to the doors putting out the torches in the room, and I'm not sure how that happens. Was it a shock wave, a blast of air? I’m struggling a bit to believe it was pieces of the actual doors themselves.
  •  (3,2,-) – Something I try to work on in my own writing is using specific words, not general ones. In this sentence “To any normal person, it would have seemed as hard as sandstone, to a Slasher like himself, it was like a knife through…” I'm not sure what ‘it’ is. I can sort of work it out, but I think it would be smoother reading if I didn’t have to think about and work out certain details, but can just absorb them. It’s very much an editing thing, I think, and the sort of thing one would pick up when going back through a piece.
  • (3,4,2) – Sandstone chest plate; that’s an interesting detail. As an engineer, I'm interested in how that would work. Seems to me that sandstone thin enough for a man to wear would be weak against an impact and likely to break quite easily. Thick enough sandstone would be super heavy to wear. So, I'm thinking that the stone armour must be magically treated/imbued in some way as to make it thin and strong.
  • (3,5,4) – I’m a little puzzled that the guards seem to be just standing there waiting to be attacked and killed. I think it’s a problem with a lot of fiction, that ‘spear carriers’ as Reading Excuses tend to refer to them, are only there to be cannon fodder, and don’t act as a real person might. I think dealing with that sort of detail can bring a story up a level Here, for example, would the guards not maybe try to attack FT, to rush him, since there are (were) four of them originally? Our at least try to attack him once he begins picking them off? What would the guard do if he was the main character? I think that’s a useful way to think about it to make their behaviour more realistic. It doesn’t mean that the outcome will be any different, but it will (I think) make some encounters more convincing.
  • (4,3,2) – I find the spear part a bit confusing. It sounds clearly like TH has thrown the spear, but then FT whips him to the side as if TH is still holding it. I think the description of what happens to the spear could be clearer.
  • (4,5,3) – It seems to me that sandstone would not crack, which implies to me that it is still in one (cracked) piece. Once there is a discontinuity in sandstone, I'm thinking that it would break. I have no problem believing that it would shatter, or maybe crumble.
  • (4,5,6) – Swearing. I think you have to be cautious about that. Does it fit the context of the story and the situation? Maybe. I can understand that TH is desperate, and that he might use the ‘b’ word. Is it necessary, does it add to the story? It certainly stands out, and hit me. What I'm a bit more doubtful of is whether FT has earned it. I mean that in the sense of how convincing he is as a villain. He’s cold and murderous, so far, certainly, but I don’t know what he’s trying to do and why, so I'm not totally sold on how bad he is yet. I think writing good, convincing villains is harder than writing main characters. I do like how offhand FT is in the next paragraph when he dismisses TH. That worked pretty well for me.
  • (5,2,1) – I'm not sure why FT would need to turn. Is he not facing TH? That’s a bit unclear, I think.
  • (5,3,1) – The repetition of ‘forward’ is awkward.
  • (5,3,3) – Internal dialogue should be in italics, to distinguish it from narrative, I believe.
  • (5,4,2) – Repetition of ‘face’ is awkward. I think any time you can use a different word instead of repeating the same one is going to be more interesting for the reader, and sound less clunky. But don’t take my word for it :) In this case, for example, consider the comparison of the original with “They carried the pedestal up to FangTar’s face, the light of the Life Stone illuminating his face features.
  • (5,7,1) – I'm not entirely convinced about TH being ‘crippled’. He doesn’t seem to have taken all that much damage, and the thing that put him down was a slap to the face. I’d be more convinced if some limb had been broken in the fight to actually cripple him.
  • (5.7.2) – Ah, here’s a description issue. I thought the stone was much bigger than that, like maybe tennis ball size, but I guess not if it fits in a pendant. Maybe the first description of the stone could be clearer, or maybe I missed something.
  • (5,8,1) – “You Sands-cursed bastard” – I think this should be hyphenated. I think of it as a compound adjective. I know there is bound to be an actual grammatical term for it that I don’t know, but that’s how I think of it.
  • (6,2,1) – This kind of underlines my point about TH being crippled, or rather not being so.
  • (6,2,3) – Again, in relation to the sandstone, I'm not entirely convinced about it being sharp to the point that it would pierce someone’s skin. That sounds more like the behaviour and characteristics of glass.
  • (6,3,1) – I'm a bit underwhelmed here, because I thought that the stone was much more powerful than just giving multiple powers. It was described earlier as powering the whole world, and that the planet would die if it was taken away. The description here sounds a lot less powerful than that, I think. Also, again, the names of the classes. For me, they don’t sound all that cool. For example, my head tells me that ‘Thumper’ is a character from Bambi,
  • (6,4,2) – When describing swordplay, I suggest reading other (published) examples of it to get good terminology, or even just use simple terms that are more threatening/violent-sounding. ‘overhand blow’, for me, is rather awkward and not all that threatening, compared to something like ‘vicious slash’ or ‘crushing attack’, for example.
  • (6,4,4) – typo, ‘posses’ > ‘possess’
  • (6,5,3) – I like how dismissively FT walks away, although it could be seen to be a bit careless; not checking to see if his opponent is actually dead.
  • (6,5,4) – I'm not keen on the term ‘bleed out’, personally, in a fantasy work, because I think it’s a modern term and so it doesn’t really fit the classical/pseudo-historical tone of a fantasy story. In my opinion, avoiding using modern words will make your story sound more convincing and authentic. Just a personal view.

Summary: I enjoyed this. There was lots of action, which is good for the opening of a story, and it also introduced lots of concepts of how magic works in this world, which is good to get early in a story. I think there is some refinement to be done to make it flow better, but that is the same for pretty much anything, so not a problem, but an opportunity for later edits. The one thing I would like to have been sold on more was the power of the stone and why FT was stealing it. What is his plan? What are the consequences? You sort of explained some of the stakes in terms of the word dying if the stone is removed, but FT simply wanting power doesn’t seem all that compelling a reason to support a whole novel. What I'm getting at is that an awful lot of stories are about saving the world, and it becomes a bit boring, done so many times before. I think stories can be improved a good deal if they are about more than that but, so far, I don’t get a lot of sense of what the novel’s going to be about.

That of course is what drafts are for, but overall I think you're writing style is solid and readable. Even though there wasn’t a lot of description, I felt like I was in a dusty underground chamber. You could look to use some of the other senses more in description. That’s something I'm trying to get better at, giving a small detail of colour or smell to bring up the setting more.

I’m looking forward to moving on now from the introduction to see where this story goes. I don’t think there were all that many promises really. Let’s see: (1) the story will be about retrieving the stone, I think; (2) also about saving the world, which I think is the consequence of the stone being taken; (3) FT is the baddy, it seems; (4) there will be magic, possibly some space stuff, as you mentioned ‘planet’. That’s really all I'm getting. Personally, I'd have liked a few more and maybe an indication of the main character, which I'm guessing will not be either FT or TH.

Good job for a first submission. For a new writer, I think you're off to a great start, you’ve got a pretty strong and direct style which I like, and that should only get better as you learn more skills, and learn to find a voice/style that is recognisably your own.

<R>

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On 13/11/2017 at 8:05 PM, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

We already know that TonHar is eighty-five.

I totally forgot how old TH was. I think you could remind the reader of that, because he fights like a younger man.

On 13/11/2017 at 8:05 PM, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

I would have liked to have seen the outside at the start of the chapter.

Hmm, I'm not sure that the tension would have been as effective if this intro had been longer and in two settings.

On 13/11/2017 at 9:41 PM, Master OoklaJack said:

My basic idea for the Life Stone is that, beyond providing raw power, it finds/creates water, which is put into the city well somehow, (not sure on that part yet) and the reason the city is going to die without it is because the well will dry up, and this is the only city on a desolate world of endless sand, totally devoid of water. That's how the Life Stone influences the lives of the people in the city.

Any suggestions on how to change this to suit my purpose better?

Yeah, see I would have liked to know this, as it gives context to the stakes of the story. How to do it? Why not just put this information here right into the story? You could summarise it and place it in TH's thoughts, just s the reader understands the mechanism. Is this how the other cities were destroyed, were their stones stolen or removed? I don't need to know specifically what FT is going to use the stone for, or why he needs it, but I just want it emphasised, maybe at the end of this part, that FT is going to take the stone away, and that the city will die.

On 14/11/2017 at 6:56 PM, industrialistDragon said:

when I first read that I read it as "Swiffers," like the dustmop for hardwood floors

Yeah, I must say I had the same problems with some of the titles, as per my own comments. I think perhaps it is because they are rather simplistic. It starts me thinking what you do instead. You could give the, unique names, but then you'd need to explain them, which could be a bit clunky. Saying, TH is a Soura, and FT is a Koldar (e.g.) - it starts to add world-building, but doesn't help with explaining what those are. You could use transparent names, as you've done, but maybe make them a bit more sophisticated or mysterious, like - I dunno, say Sharp Hand, Hard Hand, Swift Hand, which kind of borrows from the meaning of Karate, which (literally) is 'empty hand'.

On 14/11/2017 at 6:56 PM, industrialistDragon said:

That's one big pendant!

Yeah, I had the same problem.

On 15/11/2017 at 6:56 PM, Mandamon said:

the fight perhaps went on too long without establishing more of why things were happening, rather than how

I agree with @Mandamon but, as usual, take WAY too many words to do it :lol: 

On 23/11/2017 at 4:27 AM, kais said:

I couldn't get into this story. I don't know enough about the stakes or the MC to care about what happens. The names were also... pretty silly, and kept throwing me from the narrative. Swifter sounds too much like Swiffer, Thumper will forever be the rabbit from Bambi, etc. 

I got into the story because of the solid tension building and action, but to make me stay with it, totally agreeing with @kais, I need strong characters, and by that I mean interesting and complex, probably flawed. It's the danger in having a prologue that doesn't feature any of your main characters/protag. Personally, I think you've pulled it off here, but need to start the next bit immediately with a strong and characterful opening, and looking at @Mandamon and @kais's comments about diversity. It's just more interesting. Maybe you've done that in the next bit. I'm just about to find out!

On 23/11/2017 at 4:27 AM, kais said:

And tough old women fighting would be really fun and fresh! Golden Girls in sci fi I could so get behind.

This is an interesting idea. Or, you could make the antagonist a woman, because her beating up an old man would add another dimension to your villain which, at the moment, I think they could do with.

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