Zay Wolfe

07-08-18 - zaywolfe - The King Of Trash Island - chapter 1 (4510) LSVD

18 posts in this topic

Content Warning: Violence, Language, References to drug use and sex work

 
Hi everybody,
 
So this is the first 3 scenes of a book. I really wanted to try something new with this and experiment with style so I'm super curious how people react to it. Honestly, I'm not sure what you will think in the slightest.
 
The first scene is mostly exposition but I went through great pains to embrace it and make it entertaining. I'm really interested in hearing feedback on this part in particular and if it's interesting despite the infodump-iness.
 
I just tried to have fun with it and I hope everyone else has fun with it too :)
 
Thanks bunches
 
Zaya
 
(By the way: Sorry for the duplicate emails. I'm using a new email client and sometimes it gets sassy with me. Linux software seems to come with a personality haha)
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It’s been a while since I’ve done a critique - or even been on 17th Shard for that matter - but I thought I’d give this a try.

I think it’s got the beginnings of something great. It made me want to learn more and that’s great.

However, the beginning involves far too much exposition. There’s nothing happening, no characters to latch onto and that means that it’s boring and lacks a real hook to draw readers in. I have often made this same mistake; exposition is the kind of thing that as a writer you love, but as a reader you hate. I also think the opening paragraphs are a bit jarring, jumping from one subject to another with only the vaguest links. This stood out most in the paragraph opening with a line about struggle.

I’d like to say that I love the idea of Trash Island. It’s cool and clearly has a history. But don’t info-dump; ease the facts the reader needs to know through the text and that will make it read better, and make it more concise.

This critique sounds overly negative and I really didn’t mean that.  I love the idea and would love for you to submit the next part for critique next.

EDIT: Just saw your comment on the opening exposition and how you tried to make it interesting and everything. I can see that you’ve done that, and I’ll admit, it was good exposition, but if you want to open with exposition, it has to be so incredibly god damnation interesting that it’s close to impossible to pull off. So...yeah

Edited by ICanDream
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Hello @Zay Wolfe and welcome to Reading Excuses!

This was a fun piece, once I got into it. Like @ICanDream, I thought the exposition at the beginning took too long, and could probably be cut. It's fine for setting the tone, but I also want a character to latch onto to take me into the story. Further, when the main character finally does start his trash run, it's a big switch and threw me out of the story for a moment.

That said, once this gets going, it's very good. You'll see I didn't make any comments past page 6 (when the main character starts acting). You might even be able to start here, and sprinkle in a few of the expository tidbits from the beginning, and have a really amazing start to a story.

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "free from walking on the broken glass littering every street"
--ok, I'm getting the dystopia vibe, but wouldn't people have moved the broken glass out of the way to make a path, if they're walking it every day?

pg 2: There's a lot of exposition here...I'm starting to skim, looking for the story...

pg 3: Aha...here's the beginning of the story!
--er, nope. Goes back into exposition...

pg 3: there's a lot more than just gold in electronics. Plenty of rare metals.

pg 6: Still a lot of exposition and not much else. I'd like to see the main character act.

pg 6: "I ducked under a fender and came out into a large clearing"
--Wait, suddenly he's doing something, but I don't know how he got there or why.

Looking forward to more!

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I agree with Mandamon and ICanDream, that there is way to much exposition at the start of the chapter. The latter parts of the chapter were better, as R. is finally doing something and the amount of exposition goes down a little. I get that you tried to make the info-dumps as interesting as you could, but in my opinion you’re better off cutting most of it, focus on the character instead and sprinkle in the information later when we’re more involved with the characters. At the end of the day an info-dump is still an info-dump.

 

Setting: I like the setting and want to see more of it. I don’t like how it’s basically being told to me rather than being shown through the character’s thoughts and actions.

 

Disconnected sections: There doesn’t seem to be a lot of connection between the sections of this chapter, especially in the beginning. There’s exposition on one subject, then exposition on another, then the character briefly does something, then several more sections of exposition, and then when we get back to the character doing something else I’ve already forgotten what he was doing in the first place. Very jarring.

 

Name: Getting to know the main character’s name on page three, after two pages of exposition, is a bit late for me.

 

Scrap hunt: After all the exposition I was really hoping for something interesting to make all of it worthwhile, but to me the scrap hunt was a little anti-climactic and the other characters involved in it, T. and W., read very much like caricatures to me. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but so far this chapter has way to much exposition, a main character that is hardly present because of it, and the antagonists are more comic relief than a threat. I mean, W. is even literally rolling on the ground, laughing. Who does that? Especially in a junkyard with sharp objects all around?

 

Setting the scene: There’s a lot of exposition, and maybe that caused me to skim read parts, but while there is a lot of background information on the setting there isn’t much setting the scenes of where R. actually is. For instance, up until R. suddenly mentioning there’s a ground manager I had no idea there were other people around other than R., T. and W.. I wouldn’t mind a little more time spent on painting the scene.

Edited by Asmodemon
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@ICanDream, @Mandamon, @Asmodemon I wanted to say sorry it took so long to reply. Seems like whenever I put my mind to something life gets busy.

Thank you so much for your input, I'll take everything you all said into account. It's simultaneously what I feared most and what I hoped haha. I think deep down I knew it was way too much exposition (it's just so damnation fun to write), and I'm really thankful that you powered through it and enjoyed the story afterwards. Thanks for giving me the kick I needed to start cutting. I think I'll start with the character and have some action while working in bits and pieces about the setting.

@Asmodemon, you're absolutely on point about the character only being introduced on the 3rd page. Now that you mention it, it's completely obvious that I have a problem. I guess I was too close to even notice.

I got it in my head that I might be able to break the rules and do exposition strongly in the character's voice, but like @ICanDream said, an infodump is still an infodump.

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Hey Zay, I've got to apologise; I've been terribly slow at reading after spending responding to my own critiques (from last week!). I'm reading now, and will post up comments later today, or tomorrow morning. I wanted to chime in now, though, and say that I absolutely love the title, and have done since you posted the sub, so, I have great expectations!! :) 

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7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Hey Zay, I've got to apologise; I've been terribly slow at reading after spending responding to my own critiques (from last week!). I'm reading now, and will post up comments later today, or tomorrow morning. I wanted to chime in now, though, and say that I absolutely love the title, and have done since you posted the sub, so, I have great expectations!! :) 

Thanks for the vote of confidence. But I should warn you that this is very different from my other writing. It definitely has too much exposition and I've got some ideas to fix it. But if you can get through it, I hope you can enjoy yourself. Although, I should be apologizing myself; I've been looking forward to read your work since I've come back. It turns out that buying a first house is a crazy and stressful process. Likewise I hope to give you my comments today or tomorrow :)

I'm surprised you remember me. Likewise, I remember your comments and wanted to thank you for the encouragement you showed me!

 

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3 hours ago, Zay Wolfe said:

It turns out that buying a first house is a crazy and stressful process.

Oh yeah, been there. One of the most stressful things you can do. Good luck with that! 

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Here we go...

Page 1

I like the first line, and the first paragraph, I get drawn right in by a direct style and no punches pulled.

I think maybe "foregone dream" is meant to be "forlorn dream"?

"Struggle is..." - Pow: that's a slug in the gut. Very effective line. Should 'struggle' be in inverted commas?

Page 2

"like the hair of my mother" - awkward phrasing: 'mother's hair' seems more natural.

"dirty their coat sleeves" - I'm not familiar with this phrase. Not sure I see how it works, so it came over rather awkward.

There is some really powerful stuff here.

"an 'R' rating" - methinks

You've used capital 'R' rating, but small x-rating, seems inconsistent.

I'm glad there is what appears to be a positive turn towards the end of Page 2, as things were pretty unrelentingly grim to that point.

"Food is scarce and often friend" - This came over as a comic line to me, which has not been the tone so far.

"I was shocked to find something in such good condition wedged in a drainage pipe" - I did not associate this with the van; 'something' was odd to me, because you'd already specified what the something was, so I didn't take the step back to associate that with the van. Also, to me (Scottish), a drainage pipe is a small thing. In the UK, we don't have those huge big, exposed storm drains that you guys have stateside.

Page 3 

"I'm a refuse" - Hrm. I got stuck on this. To me, 'refuse' is a verb, or it's an indefinite noun (I know that's not the right term. What I mean is you can't count refuse, you can count items of refuse). So, my brain is telling me that m/c might be a 'refuser' or a 'refusal' but, to me, they can't be 'a refuse'.

"streets smelled better" - lol, er, ew.

"I’m always on the lookout for something better, easier ways to make money mostly." - Surely this can be said of everyone? What makes m/c so special? It doesn't sound like an especially insightful stretch of the imagination.

"I'm a full time e/w scavenger" - Cool idea. I wonder how much gold they get from what weight/volume of waste, but I'm willing to be convinced. I presume these two are not the only ones. Others must have this knowledge but, again, I'm willing to believe there's enough waste to go around. I'm a bit sceptical about how they get the chemicals; that must cost money, doesn't it?

"lanky like a flute" - rofl.

Page 4 

"A sells me the acids I need on the cheap" - why? Doesn't seem to make much sense for a scavenger.

I'm thinking "A smiles and nods..." maybe is a new paragraph. Seems odd to end a longer one on dialogue.

"heaps of RAM" - as an acronym, I think it needs to be capitalised.

Sorry I'm harping on LBL stuff, but I tend to do that only when something feels closer to the finished article, and this does to me. It's really good, and I'm enjoying it.

I don't buy that human spit is going to sizzle that loudly.

Page 5

Okay, I would say this is the first page where I've felt there was a bit overmuch exposition. Up to this point, I've been fine with it. It was the second half, the start of the next section. I don't mind the exposition, because it's kind of poetic, and full of good ideas that engage my interest. For me, the national park paragraph is good, and then the columns of smoke has good ideas too, but they are quite similar in tone, and one after the other felt like a bit much. I wouldn't like to lose the smoke para though. Maybe it would fit somewhere else?

Page 6

Ah, when you say W o r t, you mean the skin blemish? Isn't it spelled 'Wart'? The internet seems to think so.

I notice the exposition on this page more, because it doesn't seem to mesh so well with the action. I felt that the paragraph about him getting there interrupted the flow of two paragraphs about T&W.

Page 7 

Where do they buy things? I feel like they can't get off the island, but maybe that's not true.

Page 8

The narrative seems to pick up some momentum around 7/8 when we get into the encounter with T&W. As I say though, I did not mind the exposition in the earlier stages.

Page 9

I like how R doesn't now their names, then learns D's.

I like the idea of the 'get laid' insult, but it didn't flow smoothly for me, I had to re-read it. I think maybe a little light rephrasing would make it land stronger.

Page 10

"I twisted around and saw the ground manager watching us, along with twenty other workers who were now distracted from their jobs." - I'm not sure how this works. I got the impression there were big piles of trash around, and did not imagine there was such a wide field of view. Maybe I just didn't pick up the setting quite right.

Can a smile be seen at that distance. I imagine it's a good fifty yards. Also, I'm quite surprised there would be so many official staff working on a rubbish dump. What are they all doing, I'm wondering.

Page 11

Not sure his adversaries were outfoxed, seems to me they are tolerating his presence. Not sure I would categorise calling for help outfoxing.

"Any workers had long ago disappeared to their homes or any seedy bar welcome to the night." - Don't understand the wording of the last bit. Also, I'm a bit confused about the island. I'm imagining it as one huge big rubbish dump and nothing else, but are these homes and streets and bars on it, or do the workers return to the mainland on boats?

"Picking up a few more servers..." What size are these things? Is this a world of future miniaturisation? My mental image of a server is much bigger than this.

Page 12

The light is very intriguing.

"Even with up to my shoulder emerged..." - Huh? Don't understand. Some of the language around here needs a pass.

Page 13

"Some kind of metal trunk" - Oooh, very interesting.

I don't understand how he might lose himself. Is it from the trunk falling on him? It's unclear what's happening here, I think.

Page 14

Oh, frustrating cliffhanger, but I'll go with it, as I had already decided that he wouldn't be able to open the trunk because of the locks, so I wasn't expecting instant gratification (of seeing what was inside) before T arrived.

Summary

I enjoyed this a good deal. You style is direct, and I did not mind the exposition much at all, until maybe Page 6, which I started to feel it was in the way a bit. Sure, there are a few words out of place and it needs an editing pass, all easily fixable, but it was easy to bypass that and enjoy the ideas and the story. Some of the details made me stop and go 'Huh?' but that's what critiquing is for, of course.

I think maybe you might considering dropping in some other sense in the description. I felt that there were good chances for sounds to be front and foremost, not to mention smells, here and there. That would give the dump a bit more life.

The characters seem okay so far. I like R's voice, kind of snarky, but amiable, and yet also aspirational, and quite positive, which is good. There is maybe a danger of T&W being a bit pantomime villain-y, but I'm assuming they are not the big bads of the story anyway, so no big deal.

I think this is good work, and I'm looking forward to seeing the next bit :) 

<R>

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@Robinski Thanks for the wonderful feedback. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. I'm finding I have almost no time lately, and the little time I get I use to write. This feedback is really golden by the way. And thanks for the heads up on Wort's Wart's name. I remember questioning the right spelling as I was writing it but I was on a run and then forgot to google it.

And you pegged it that T&W aren't the big baddies, but I also don't want people to get too connected with them if you get my drift.

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11 minutes ago, Zay Wolfe said:

@Robinski Thanks for the wonderful feedback. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. I'm finding I have almost no time lately, and the little time I get I use to write.

That's good! No problem. 

11 minutes ago, Zay Wolfe said:

This feedback is really golden by the way. And thanks for the heads up on Wort's Wart's name. I remember questioning the right spelling as I was writing it but I was on a run and then forgot to google it.

That's a good strategy. I'm too easily distracted by going off the search for things.

 

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@Zay Wolfe I haven't read any of your submissions yet, but plan to this weekend. If you've made any recent changes to this and last weeks, I'm happy to look at a new version. If not, I'll read the ones you sent. 

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On 7/26/2018 at 3:11 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

@Zay Wolfe I haven't read any of your submissions yet, but plan to this weekend. If you've made any recent changes to this and last weeks, I'm happy to look at a new version. If not, I'll read the ones you sent. 

I appreciate that! I haven't made any significant changes yet, I'm still focused on just finishing the stories but linking to the feedback here to each scene. That way when I finish the book I can go back and re-read all this with a fresh perspective.

I've been a bit busy lately so I may be late replying. But even if it takes a while, I'm totally thankful for your interest in helping me beat this story into shape :)

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Well, I'm trying to get caught up. Let's see how far I get.

Overall

That was delightful! Great characterization and pacing. Nice dystopian feel. No real quibbles, outside of your entirely male cast thus far. It is chapter one, however, so i'm willing to suspend judgement for a bit longer. Very nicely done! Apologize for so few notes but I just cruised along with reading and got sucked in!

 

On 7/9/2018 at 10:14 AM, Mandamon said:

Like @ICanDream, I thought the exposition at the beginning took too long, and could probably be cut.

Interestingly, while I normally hate early exposition, this one didn't bother me much. It got a bit long in the tooth, but generally I enjoyed it. 

 

As I go

- solid opening line!

 

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22 hours ago, kais said:

Well, I'm trying to get caught up. Let's see how far I get.

Overall

That was delightful! Great characterization and pacing. Nice dystopian feel. No real quibbles, outside of your entirely male cast thus far. It is chapter one, however, so i'm willing to suspend judgement for a bit longer. Very nicely done! Apologize for so few notes but I just cruised along with reading and got sucked in!

 

Interestingly, while I normally hate early exposition, this one didn't bother me much. It got a bit long in the tooth, but generally I enjoyed it. 

 

As I go

- solid opening line!

 

I'm so happy you enjoyed it! :)

And yeah, I'm totally aware of the gender unbalance, and I've got plans to fix it. In its current state though, I got a really neat character coming that I'm trying hard to buck typical gender tropes with. She's going to be a kickass female character that doesn't just exist to be a love interest or to build up our main dude R.

If you can stick around until she enters the story, I'd love help with any points you have with her character. It's going to be tough doing it from the perspective of a hormone crazy teenage boy, and I know it.

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2 minutes ago, Zay Wolfe said:

She's going to be a kickass female character that doesn't just exist to be a love interest or to build up our main dude R.

I'd love this more if you had more than one woman in it. Love the idea of a solid woman who isn't a love interest or a sacrifice, but if you could also smatter some women in with the general crowds and thugs and such, it'd be much better. Happy to help on your main woman!

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1 minute ago, kais said:

I'd love this more if you had more than one woman in it. Love the idea of a solid woman who isn't a love interest or a sacrifice, but if you could also smatter some women in with the general crowds and thugs and such, it'd be much better. Happy to help on your main woman!

I agree 100%.

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