Asmodemon

Aug 22 2011 - Asmodemon - Maiden of Thorns - Chapter 1

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Is there something attached to the post? If so how do I access it?

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Is there something attached to the post? If so how do I access it?

There's an email list. We're waiting on TWG documentation, so just sit tight and all will become clear. These topics are for the people on the large email list who want to critique things from Monday's submission.

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There is something a little off about the first line. Maybe ending with wildly is the problem. The idea is fine but for a first sentence it should be stronger. I do think you started in the right spot. The action draws me in immediately. The fight on the bridge is well described, the inner thoughts of Rosen are also well done and help to give some back story without the dreaded info dump. His silver spear is not particularly awe inspiring. Maybe it's just me. I love magical weapons but his spear is a bit of a let down. As far as I know, its only trait is its faint glow. I expected more. Maybe that is forthcoming?

The magic system is pretty good from what we have learned so far. I like the elemental powers of Rosen and the Achilles heel type of vulnerability. I have never seen internal thought underlined before. I have to admit that threw me off in the beginning. Usually I have seen it italicized but I guess that is just a matter of preference.

The battle with Orchid was kind of boring. I didn't get any sense that Rosen or even Orchid for that matter were really in any danger. Maybe that was your intent. This is a battle we will have to wait for later.

The apprentice Amaryllis I found to be more interesting and even sympathetic than Rosen. Her bond to him which forces her to serve him against her will makes it interesting. I like that twist. Pretty rare to see a protaganist who

has forced someone into slavery. I didn't get the sense that Rosen is an anti-hero so that is a rare combination.

Overall I thought it was a good beginning. If I picked this up in a book store I would probably need a strong second chapter to convince me to buy it though.

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The chapter was interesting, especially in the later part. I loved Amaryllis and her banter with Rosen (does everyone here have a flower name? If so, is Rosen related to Black Rose?).

Now, I found the beginning a little unsettling. The first lines give an impression of cold and calm, as if the character was only fighting against bad weather. Then, we see him with opposing soldiers. From the atmosphere in the first lines, there is no way I'm going to understand that this guy is actually fighting people, so when you start to describe the soldiers, I'm thrown out of the story.

After that, the fighting sequence is nice, even if I keep asking myself why a character who can bounce quarrels off his skin does his fighting in such a traditional way. The guy is essentially a big rock, so why does he even care about the soldiers? He should be able to move pretty much where he wants to go without them interfering (remember the big rock ball in Indiana Jones?)

The sequence with Orchid lacked some presence from the woman. She just puts off the light and starts throwing knives, which could be nice, but why so few? Her opponent is blind and she can pierce his armor, so why not go happy and send a flurry of blades at him?

I liked the fact that we have a connection with the prologue (which I loved), and that there is some sort of struggle going on around Black Rose.

I think you have a nice opening here. You definitely interested me in reading more.

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I enjoyed seeing a chapter from Rosen's perspective; I never got the chance to on the last read through because I joined too late. If I remember correctly

He has someone's mind sort of trapped within his own, and then later he's trapped within your MC's. I would try to make this more apparent. You barely hint at it within this chapter, so I don't think it's something anyone will have picked up on yet.

I liked the way you describe his skin protecting him. I'm curious if it will re-harden or not. I think it would have been nice to have Orchid say a something instead of just turning off the lights and attacking. Some reference to old times, or an attempt to get him to give up?

Otherwise, the action was smooth and it was a good start to the book. I'm hoping you tweak the "stupid/evil empire wakes up ancient evil for their own gain and then it backfires" plot a little – but I believe the awakening happens much earlier than your average tale so that's probably fine.

Lastly, is their a a reason for all the flowers? In-world, I mean. I get that as a stylistic thing it's kind of cool that your world is all about thorns and flowers and whatnot, I'm just wondering if your characters – named and naming things after flowers – know why that is.

Edited by Hubay
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Hmm. I enjoyed this chapter and the prologue as well. I will say that there seems to be a pretty steep learning curve for this so far. I suppose you have to sacrifice info with action/interest at times so that is fine. The first paragraph of the first chapter is really odd. I would flip it on it's head. Start with the sentence beginning with "Rosen grinned" and include his thoughts behind that as well. (I too was thrown off by the underlined thoughts.) This gives the reader an immediate understanding of character, setting, and mood.

The sentence beginning with "Like streaks of blood" caught me off guard. There are two "like" descriptions in this one sentence which made me read it a couple of times. I would like to suggest something like the following to make it flow a bit better "Like streaks of blood his crimson hair fluttered in front of his eyes while the rest of his mane whipped behind him. Much like his long red overcoat." (Please don't take this as me re-writing your story, I just wanted to give an example)

One overall thing that I was confused about was if he was defending the tower or was he trying to escape as Amaryllis appeared to be?

The attack by Orchid felt lackluster. Ultimately, he thought about their previous fight, got caught in her darkness (apparently for a second time), got stabbed, then jumped for escape. This also raised the question of what the uber spear could/would do for him beyond being his light in the dark? A part of this, I suppose, could be answered if he was attempting escape.

The slight banter between Rosen and Amaryllis was nice. It was actually really good for character development in a first chapter. Nicely done.

The other thing that I think you have a firm grasp on is voice. For this story I clearly felt in a fantasy setting.

I would ditto that this would need a strong follow up chapter to this to grab a hold of the book browser in the store.

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I couldn't find a topic for the prologue so I will leave my general comments for it here.

You do a good job setting a tone with this prologue. The things that are going on seem dire and epic and the only thing that really undercuts that is when you try to point out how dire and epic things are. I found a lot of bits overwritten and over-explained, largely pointed out in the line edits.

I have to wonder if perhaps your point of view is working against you in this prologue. Cliche as it may be, it might be easier to have a random soldier of the eagle tribe percieiving the battle rather than a learned practicioner of a magic system that the audience is unfamiliar with. I say this because the magic that you are using is so visual that it might be better to have the spectacles (which have reason/purpose behind them) raging before someone who doesn't understand them, only for them later to be explained (i assume) as a character learns througout the book.

Because as it is, some of the explainations of how to magic works gets in the way of what should be your hook for this sequence-- the desperate push between the two forces and the emotional underpinnings that inform it. If you stick with Rose as your PoV, go into her history with the other woman (sorry, names) a bit more. How have they grown apart? This might be a problem because you tended to overwrite internal conflict. A more terse style at first may help with this.

It is only at the end when you set stakes for this battle and, by the time the tyrants are introduced, they are just another thing on top of a whole lot of concepts. Either have them on Rose's mind from the beginning do not name them. An overarching threat lends to the reader's comprehension of the conflict that is going on, a name with nothing attatched sometimes intrigues but at this stage it confuses.

Also, there are some things which appear and then dissapear. The male shaman dissapears for pages before coming back and being given a name. The statues are treated as very important but then are promptly forgotten. Setting was also a problem for me as it wasn't clear at first that Black Rose and the soldiers were in the same room. It seemed more like she was controlling a battle from afar.

On a more technicle level, sometimes you use the simple past when you should be using the plu-perfect. Also try more vivid verbs in places. And remember that more clauses lessen the impact your sentences are providing.

The conflicts and magics at work in this story seem interesting. I will be following this story as it progresses with great curiosity.

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Okay, Chapter One:

This chapter needs a lot of work. Your prose is weak when conveying action and almost every sentence is actively working against its (presumably) desired effect.

You do this thing where you'll write a long sentence with several subordinate clauses. But the main clause will have a general verb that is more a goal and the subordinate clauses will have complex verb phrases that describe the specific actions that compose that general action/goal.

That is the weakest way you can word the action. Do the opposite. Specific actions anchoring the main clause with sometimes a subordinate clause describing the desired intent of that action. Sometimes. You use far too many subordinate clauses as it is. It's an action scene. Let it be exciting.

But what is more damaging is the general tendency to avoid vivid details at any cost. Saying what the general goal achieved by an action is differs from describing the action itself. Don't say Rosen pushed the soldiers back. That doesn't tell us anything. Tell us he thrust his spear at their heads and they recoiled, giving him space to maneuver. You also tend to give reactions without explanation. If you go into the why of some of the events (I've marked some of them in the line-edit) you'll alleviate some of the confusion at work.

Set the scene. Everything about where this action is happening is so nebulous. Make us feel like we are on this bridge and when things happen that depend on the environment (as they do) it won't be so confusing. You start relying on a spacial awareness midway through the chapter but you never give us that space as a tactile environment. This weakens the impact.

Describe. Aside from Rosen, we don't get a good idea of what anyone really looks like. You never describe the soldiers, just that they are soldiers.

If you're describing something, Describe ALL OF IT. If we've already gotten a description of Rosen, it's confusing to later be told that he's a giant. If the spear is described to us, we understand it. We shouldn't find out three pages later that it has been glowing the whole time. It's like being told a bad joke where half way through the teller backtracks and informs us that the man who walked into the bar was an Eskimo right before/after it became relevant to the punchline.

You break PoV several times in the second half. I've marked it on your line-edit.

Finally, when you try to add explanations of the magic, you don't do it gracefully and it breaks what flow this chapter has. Really ask yourself if we need to know this stuff at this moment. Could it be done better later? We don't need to know everything up front.

A suggestion:

My advice for this chapter would be to completely rewrite it with a focus on descriptive wording and transparency of actions. Maybe try an exercise like the below:

First, list all the characters, major and minor, who appear. Write down their basic physical characteristics. List all the important objects and do the same. Write as much down as you can about the setting.

Then, list the sequence of events with the most explicit verbs you can. If Rosen moves his spear from his left hand to his right, write it down. If he steps forward, write it down. Write down what each soldier does when another soldier does something.

Then, write a new draft of this chapter that is just sequence of events. Only use action verbs. No passive. No "Being" or "Ing" complex clauses.

Then, intersplice that with internal monologue and pov. Add in Rosen's reactions to and thoughts over the sequence of events.

Then, add descriptions. Avoid adverbs unless you decide that they are truly needed.

Then (and only then) see where concepts might be unclear and sparsely convey aspects of the magic system.

Then, sparingly, merge sentences and ideas to create a flow.

If you do this, I think the sequence of events/action of this chapter will be much clearer and more effective.

Content:

Content-wise, this seems interesting, though I don't know if I've been given a reason to care or a sense of scope yet. Both the prologue and the first chapter have started with action rather than world building. However, neither were especially fast-paced. I don't have a feel for this world yet and perhaps that is something you should look to cultivate before going back to the Black Rose as do in the end of the chapter.

Also, none of the characters you've featured so far have been normal citizens of this world. This hurts the narrative a bit as we have very little sense of the scale that the characters operate upon. Everyone we've seen featured so far has been magic. Is everyone in this world magic? What is this world like? Is it the past or is it a unique fantasy kingdom?

Everything has happened in such confined spaces that it's hard to see this so far as anything but flashes of light against a void. Pretty, but with no weight attached.

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