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Mandamon

20180604 - Changing State - 3555 words - Mandamon

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Hello all, 
This is the short story that goes along with the two novellas I'm putting out. It won't spoil anything past the first 20 pages or so of Society, but if you're not familiar with the magic system, this may be a bit of a jump. Still, I think you'll still be able to enjoy it.

Let me know any comments you have!

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@Mandamon I didn’t get your sub in my email. Could you send again?

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Weird. I looked at my sent mail and the document is attached. Anyone else have a problem?

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I haven't read the two novellas (though I do hope to make time for those) and so I have no idea what the magic system is, at this point. Hopefully, the fresh perspective will allow me to impart a different take on the work, rather than just leaving me confused . . . We'll see :P

Overall: I thought the story flowed well, and had a clear beginning, middle, and end. You'd didn't try to juggle too many characters + kept the plot points simple, which was a plus as well. I came into this not having any prior experience with this world--which left me confused, at some parts--but the story managed to stand on its own. Looking back, the narrative picked up drastically from the moment the child/three-house majus came into play. Things had been lagging a bit, and I was confused as to how exactly M was doing his tracking, which was a large part of the story to that point. (This was mostly due to my aforementioned lack of knowledge regarding the world/magic system.) That being said, the improvements were more visually captivating than truly interesting. There wasn't incredibly high stakes, and M seemed perfectly fine after his foot reverted to its natural state, if a bit disoriented. If this is what you were going for, you hit the nail on the head. The prose flowed beautifully, I got a sense of the world and people, and want to learn more about the magic system. All in all, I really enjoyed the read! Thanks!

Page by Page:

   Page 1:

  • Are those first lines of summary and placement going to be on the page itself? Also, what does A.A.W. stand for (out of curiosity)?
  • I found the name 'Moortlin' hard to wrap my head around . . . If it's not culturally tied, or from some previous character, I'd suggest making it a bit more legible (Mortlin?)
  • I was super confused in this first line, though I suspect phrases like "felt their sap rising" and the syntax of what he says is something already established in this world. I'll withhold my disbelief, then.
  • "relaxing down" might be somewhat superfluous, in this context
  • "unnatural creatures" implies something, well, unnatural. I think the "though" isn't necessary here
  • I'm still not sure whether he uses "one" and "they" because he is neither gender or because it's some other cultural quirk. That being said, I know where the plot seems to be going, which is enough (especially considering I'd have more context having read novellas)

   Page 2:

  • Qualification, check. Motivation, check. Urgency, check. So far so good :)
  • "to time to learn" was a confusing way of phrasing this 
  • I can see the use of double vowels in the names (Thaal, etc.), which might excuse the annoyance, but M's name is still bothering me almost every time I come across it
  • The worldbuilding here flows well, and has me interested. There are a lot of names being thrown around, however.
  • Why is everyone so sad?
  • "Had that been one of the quick scurrying creatures inhabiting the Imperium?" This line broke me out of the narrative slightly . . . sounds too blocky.
  • How do they know if the chords are "odd" ?
  • "Strange living things"? As opposed to strange non-living things?

   Page 3:

  • I'm getting a sense of who M is and how they view the world much more than I am understanding the magic system. This might be intentional, however.
  • The "it was filthy" was a great line, with good setup. Might pack more of a punch if you added another descriptor phrase (in addition to "this was the Imperium, jewel of the eight species"), however.
  • As much I love seeing their interesting worldview, M seems to be spending too much time admiring their surroundings and too little thinking about the creature their career may be riding upon.
  • It took me a moment to realize you meant protection from the weather, when they mention the tunic.
  • How can they see the House of Power? Can everyone (or maji, at least) see the Houses, but only some can hear them?
  • "as if the youngest portion of the vine disagreed with the rest of its being" - this is a beautiful line 

   Page 4:

  • "All the tales they had heard about the extinct species had been more . . . ruthless." - I assume it was the Aridori that the 'ruthless' applies to, not the tales? Maybe "had portrayed them as more . . . ruthless" would be clearer?
  • "Auras rotated around the plant as the Symphony of Strengththe aspect more closely associated with plantsbled notes into the Symphony of Healing."
  • The paragraph explaining the shifting Symphonies was very confusing for me . . . I had to read it twice before could grasp the general gist.
  • "This is not a change happening naturally." Ummm . . . I would think a moving vine sprouting fingers would make that obvious . . .
  • "where wood planks were buried in the dirt"
  • Not sure what he meant by the "Except. Hm." Getting kinda confused here.
  • Wait, M can do that? Or was it the other majus?
  • "Moortlin shifted to one side as a length of grain ripped free, creaking upward, then drooping to the ground as if it was no longer wood, but elastic gum." - This sentence is a bit choppy. Also, is it usually this easy to follow the trail of a majus?
  • "Lumber does not hiss and wail." - I'm thinking now that it's a character point that he notices obvious things and makes a note of them. I think.
  • "It burst and the rough wood crumbled to dust." - I thought this was referring to the whole board, at first.
  • "Underneath there was blue flesh, rubbery and wet" - I have absolutely no idea what is happening . . . Is something behind the board?

   Page 5:

  • I'm starting to have an idea of the way Symphonies work . . . I know this is meant to be read by someone who already knows how the magic system works, but a line or two to quickly explain would probably help make things clearer, earlier.
  • "The parent was of the Methiemum species, fleshy, thin-skinned, with a mop of hair of top of that one’s head. Watery eyes, white with blue centers, unlike Moortlin’s small yellow orbs, watched in horror." - It feels as if everyone M meets is of a new species, but maybe that's just me. Also, this paragraph has a lot of commas.
  • "immune to it because of that one’s progeny" - This sounded a little strange
  • "It’s getting worse every day. I only just made it home." - Because of what the child did to him or as an aside?
  • "turning to thin spidery fingers rather than individual strands." - There's a running theme of things turning from their usual state into tendrils/fingers
  • The cause was a child playing music? How come no one heard the music? Unless it's not really music, and only maji can hear the Symphony . . . either way, no one came in the house to check on them?

   Page 6:

  • "Then the infant looked at Moortlin, and their world changed." - This line has a completely different--and much more terrifying--meaning than it usually has when a new parent is involved
  • "Yet Moortlin felt the infant wished them no harm—that one was merely curious." - Is he using the magic here?
  • "Thick breath" ?
  • "Then they did the same with the House of Strength, but Moortlin’s work was undone, the notes swept from their grasp." - This might be better as two sentences
  • "their joints cracking and shifting" - Oh, the irony
  • "discordant, masses of notes" - maybe remove the comma
  • This is one of the most unique "fight" scenes I have read in a while. There's a cinematic beauty to it that brought me back into the story, whereas the chase scene preceding this scene had pulled me out a bit.

   Page 7:

  • This entire page was really captivating, and had me focused throughout. I really want to know more about this magic system!

   Page 8:

  • They doesn't even pause to contemplate what happened? Knowing their species' propensity for deliberateness makes this all the more surprising . . .
  • Also, is there a reason why these events happened as soon as M came into the room? I mean, the changing has had the Council's attention for a while now, right? It seems kind of coincidental that it would all culminate as M enters, unless their careful rebuffs and weaving of the Symphonies did more than they thought it did . . .
  • "crest sticking almost straight out" - Another species?
  • "You were surviving a complex and unstoppable force, and it is showing your constitution." - I think I know what you mean here . . .
  • "It did make a sick sort of sense" - For some reason, this phrasing seemed out of character. I haven't seen enough of M to be completely sure, but it raised my eyebrow.
  • Does every race have a different way of speaking? One would think they would have some cultural blend, living together as they are. (See what I did there? :))
  • Sometimes you capitalize 'Councilor,' sometimes not . . .

   Page 9:

  • "Especially with so much conflict among the eight species, maji must be knowing defenses if such antagonism spreads" - I know this is probably clear from your other works, but some hinting towards the conflict in this story wouldn't go amiss. It seemed like the species were getting along quite well with M, at least.
  • The last line is quite good, especially since it mirrors the syntax of the first line M said.
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I still don't know why my email ate your email. So weird. 

Overall

I love the idea of this story, and the whole thing with the kid was gripping. I'm not sure the end had as much punch as it could have. I think the formation of the two house society (I assume that's what you were going for?) could have a lot more urgency behind it, which would really make this story have punch. But generally, I really enjoyed it!

 

As I go

- I read those first three lines in movie preview voice

- the Moor have only been sentient for 50 cycles? I have so many questions

- 'scurrying creature' is redundant at the bottom of page two

- page four: I've read all the stuff you've put out in this universe and it still didn't occur to me that the vine might be an Arido

- bottom of page four: I am very concerned for the state of this wood board and its apparent ring shake

- page six: I'm pretty hooked at this point. You've often alluded to what someone with three houses could do so it's neat to see it

- page eight: well that was... disturbing

 

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Thanks @Tariniel and @kais!

12 hours ago, Tariniel said:

I came into this not having any prior experience with this world--which left me confused, at some parts--but the story managed to stand on its own.

Glad this wasn't too confusing. You have some great notes where you did get confused, which will help me iron this out a little for people coming in fresh.

12 hours ago, Tariniel said:

There wasn't incredibly high stakes, and M seemed perfectly fine after his foot reverted to its natural state, if a bit disoriented.

 

9 hours ago, kais said:

I'm not sure the end had as much punch as it could have.

That's the usual problem with prequels, where the character appears whole in another work. I can try to punch this up some more.

9 hours ago, kais said:

the Moor have only been sentient for 50 cycles? I have so many questions

Just M. The species has been around for a long time.

9 hours ago, kais said:

I've read all the stuff you've put out in this universe and it still didn't occur to me that the vine might be an Arido

Interesting. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. I'll have to think about it.

9 hours ago, kais said:

well that was... disturbing

Yeah, this got creepier as I wrote it.

I probably should have put some tags on it, but I always forget to do that...

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Booya!

Yay!! Good job on the characterisation previously, since I feel a nice feeling on seeing M again.

- "reports of unnatural creatures" - I think it would be more natural here to say where they were right up front. "An ancient one was seen in the library with a candlestick!!" before going on to lesser details.

- Okay, I'm struggling with the narrative being in the Ben form of speech. How does that work? It's third person, because you refer in the narrative to 'M o o r...', but then this section is in M's head. Confused. I mean, if it's in a Ben PoV, would the narrator use M's name at all?

- "no other place to go" - Huh? Don't follow. Is this a poor place? Poor and homeless people still have places to go, meet people, do stuff. I'm not really sure what's being implied.

- "No one would choose to live here, if they had means not to" - I'm not really feeling this generic poor area. I think this might be a case for being a bit more direct in the description.

- "no sign of the original creature" - I'm confused by the narrative line here. One second there's a creature, but M is then absorbed by the surroundings. I presume he's forgotten the creature, then M's still thinking about it. I didn't feel at all invested in the manifestation, which feels cursory, offhand. Also, M basically leaves the Ef and walks straight into the first encouter (it seems), there's no time for any tension to build. I'm not feeling any stakes. Who is in danger? What is the cost?

- "Houses of H, S and P" - Wait, what? I thought Maji could only see the colours of their own houses?

I like the alienness of what is happening with the vine, but I'm still not feeling the stakes.

- "its back bubbled as little yellow flowers sprouted from it" - again, I like the weirdness, but M's reaction is really bland, imo.

- "the entire house glowed" - This is the image. They turn the corner and, BAM, weirdness. The description really needs to be upped here, I think. I feel like we've just arrived in an Escher sketch (see what I did there ;)), that it's Yellow Submarine meets The Wall, but the description is not blowing my head off like it should. I think this is a moment to sell the whole premise of the story. On that subject, I thought this was to do with transforming creatures, shapeshifting is the way it was presented, but this is something else, my weirder it seems.

- "I can't make him stop, the M said" - Emotion!!!!! pleaded, sobbed, begged. I sounds like the parent is filing the nails. "It’s getting worse every day" - Bah, there's a real lack of emotion and investment in all of the characters. Okay, first draft or whatever, but it really does transfer to the reader. I think back to Journey and the emotion from Nat, and also from Man in Society. I'm really feeling the lack here.

- "So many changes in the Symphony" - Description again. Would this not sound like some sort of wild cacophony?

- It was when you mentioned the infant that I suspect we may be dealing with a being hearing three houses (Am I close?). I see at the foot of Page 5 that is the case, however, how can M see all three colours, I thought maki could only see their own houses.

- "A waltz became a march, the snap of a drum became a thrumming string" - These are contrary. I would say a march is much more likely to have drums in it than a waltz, being a martial rhythm, and a waltz would have many strings, classically at least.

I don't think you mention whether the infant is male or female at aany point, do you?

- "terrifying" - I feel like there is a need here to really cement the stakes and the terror of the whole situation, to speculate more widely on the potentially disasterous consequences of this situation, i.e. to earn this word.

- "The young M held up one hand..." - This passage is cool, and awesome. I still don't see the connection with the original report, which just seems weaker the more we get into this.

- "fitting with other, rare, reports..." - I don't quite follow this. Reports around this same incident? Surely not more reports of 3-hour maji, which would seem to be satistically impossible to be expereinced by the same maji.

- The last line falls flat for me as a last line. Personally, I think the Cllr should have the last line. I very much wanted him to say "I am to be having an idea for a collection of maji like yourself, a society, if you will..."

This feels like a first draft to me. While there are some good ideas and some nice lines, I think there are areas of weakness, some of which are not unexpected, given your MO (like emotion to be added in the 2nd draft) ;)  I can see the potential though. I think this will be just fine with a few more passes. It does feel quite rushed though, but I can't see where I would want it to be (a lot) longer, so it's probably just the issues above, for me.

<R>

p.s. LBLs in the post.

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Like both @kais and @Robinski, I think that what's lacking is emotion, primarily. Everything is at a bit of a remove. I'm also missing a bit of the "young prodigy out to prove himself" feeling from Mo. They're young. They're special. They've been told it's a test. This feels a bit like a watered-down version of mature Mo from the other story, and I'd really like them to have a bit more personality. From what I can gather, Bens are something of a minority in the Nether, and it seems a bit like Mo might've had to have fought some to get recognition, especially if the stereotype of Ben people is one of slowness, stolidity or indecisiveness/lack of decision. Which would mean to me that, yes, Young Mo would be Ben-ly slow physically and when compared to another species, but they'd have to be almost suicidally reckless and prone to snap judgments from a Ben perspective just to make it as far as they have, and I'm not getting any of that in their internal thoughts -- it's very neutral bland right now. 

I am also a little confused by how Mo can see the other symphonies auras, though, that might be WRS? I think I remember they all can see auras, but just not hear them? Or something? Maybe?

 

"there was blue flesh" -- So this is getting a little eldrich horror here, which is cool, but still the tone of the narration is treating it like the evening news. I'd really like to feel the creepiness more than I am currently. .... Actually, are Ben wood or some near cognate? 'Cause all this stuff is happening to lumber, and y'know, that's really, really close to live wood/their own flesh, and, like, i don't know about you, but I'd be extra creepified and squicked out if this stuff was happening to, like, cow leather or something. Yeah, it's leather, but leather was once flesh, and I am flesh, and if it can happen to leather then what about me... y'know? And Mo's here just looking around all nonchalant like "my word what a peculiar flower. I shall have to get the name of the cultivar."

Ah, I see it did happen to them. Again, even though I find body horror really profoundly disturbing, I think this part needs more emotion and punch to play up that aspect. This is Mo's own flesh that they are losing control over, after all. 

 

The only part that really lost me was the part near then end when the child started changing itself. I didn't understand what it was doing or what Mo was doing or why it was happening just then or why the child would kill its parent... Or... really much of anything about that scene. Hadn't Mo just said they couldn't defend against even cursory changes made by the child? How did they survive then? I'm also kind of confused by the way the child is depicted as being both almost purely random, like a regular child, and as having some kind of three-house-given extra intelligence. Not that it can't be all of that, but right now the two depictions seem like plot holes rather than intentional.

 

I'm also a little skeptical that there is a logical connection between homelessness, and infrastructure deficits, and a seekrit paramilitary society whose mission is to defend against unknown unknowns and infinitely powerful babies.  I was with the recruitment speech up until Mo thought about the unrelated economic issues, but I don't really know what the domestic issues have to do with the baby or Mo's recruitment. It feels random. 

 

It's a good story, and I like the horror elements, but thinking on it, Mo doesn't do a whole lot. They walk, then they stand still, then they stand still some more until it's over. It'd be nice if they at least interacted with something a bit more, you know? 

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7 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'm also missing a bit of the "young prodigy out to prove himself" feeling from Mo. They're young. They're special. They've been told it's a test. This feels a bit like a watered-down version of mature Mo from the other story, and I'd really like them to have a bit more personality.

Yes to the first bit, I remember thinking about it, but didn't express it. I was going to comment about the emotion (maybe I did; I forget), then I thought 'Did Mo have that much emotion in Society? I don't remember them being all the emotive, so maybe this is consistent? That doesn't mean it could not stand some more emotional investment thought. I do agree with this point.

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16 hours ago, Robinski said:

I thought Maji could only see the colours of their own houses?

 

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I am also a little confused by how Mo can see the other symphonies auras, though, that might be WRS?

Hopefully this is just WRS. Yes, all maji can see all house auras, but they can only hear their Symphonies (so they can see that something is affected, even if they don't know how)

16 hours ago, Robinski said:

there's a real lack of emotion and investment in all of the characters

 

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I think that what's lacking is emotion, primarily. Everything is at a bit of a remove.

Definitely. More of this will get added in the second pass. Your comments always point out where it's most needed!

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'm also missing a bit of the "young prodigy out to prove himself" feeling from Mo. They're young. They're special. They've been told it's a test.

 

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

they'd have to be almost suicidally reckless and prone to snap judgments from a Ben perspective just to make it as far as they have

Very good points, and that's about right for Ben who leave the homeworld. Thanks for putting that succinctly--that helps me figure out where I need to flesh this out.

 

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

"my word what a peculiar flower. I shall have to get the name of the cultivar."

Lol. Although now I want this to be the default emotion, even though it wouldn't read well.

 

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The only part that really lost me was the part near then end when the child started changing itself. I didn't understand what it was doing

I'll work on this. I was going for "helpless against a chaotic superior force" and that the child was as random and insane as it was powerful. I'll see if I can make this play better.

13 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I was with the recruitment speech up until Mo thought about the unrelated economic issues

Good point. Will also try to connect this more.

Thanks @Robinski and @industrialistDragon!

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