Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mrwizard70

Reading Excuses - [10/1/18] - [mrwizard70] - [Hell is for Heroes] (No tags)

12 posts in this topic

2.2k words. 

 
The big focus of this is not the worldbuilding. I want to flesh out the characters and make sure they're believable. My writing is usually worldbuilding based, so I've made the commitment to keep all of my worldbuilding subject to change until I finish this piece. 
 
I am mostly worried about Alash, though responses on the side characters are welcome as well. I want to create a character who has seen war but is also drawn to it. I'm trying to portray that dichotomy and the conflict within him. I'm concerned that I've given him too much PTSD and it doesn't make sense that he would go back to war. Does he need more apparent motivation?
 
Alexander and Tyio will be fleshed out eventually and they are main characters in their own right, but I'm not going to pin them down until I am confident in Alash. 
 
Also, I'm struggling with the switch to third person. Let me know if you've got an advice. 

Hell is for Heroes.doc

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, this is an interesting beginning, and I'm getting a very Russian, early 20th century vibe. Is this a historical fantasy?
Assuming that is correct, the attitude towards Jews is probably period-accurate, but you will probably need a very good sensitivity/targeted reader to know how it comes across.

I think the letter at the beginning could also be clearer--I wasn't aware it was a call to war until the characters started discussing it.

In all, I'm certainly interested to read further installments. So far this is mostly character and setting interactions, which is great, but I'm also looking for hints of overarching plot, which aren't as clear yet.

Specifically to your questions, I thought this was a good character-focused piece. I think I actually got a better sense of Alexander than Alash. Making their ways of speech and how they respond to each other will help flesh them out. Right now, as I said below, they seem to waver in age depending on how they speak. Getting in a reference to Alash's soldier background on the first page might also help out.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "It was the further away of the two capitals,"
--this is a bit awkward and confusing, especially right at the beginning.

pg 3: "Ala found Alex standing in the doorway, looking both awed and rather worn for an nineteen year old."
--Is Alex only 19? I got the impression he was much older and that Ala was younger, for some reason.

pg 4: "Don’t get acting like that now, you were doing so good"
--This makes me see Alex as older. His character isn't coming across as consistent to me. Both he and Ala are waffling in their resposes. One moment they seem like older men, and the next like teenagers.


 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Ok, this is an interesting beginning, and I'm getting a very Russian, early 20th century vibe. Is this a historical fantasy?
Assuming that is correct, the attitude towards Jews is probably period-accurate, but you will probably need a very good sensitivity/targeted reader to know how it comes across.

I think the letter at the beginning could also be clearer--I wasn't aware it was a call to war until the characters started discussing it.

In all, I'm certainly interested to read further installments. So far this is mostly character and setting interactions, which is great, but I'm also looking for hints of overarching plot, which aren't as clear yet.

Specifically to your questions, I thought this was a good character-focused piece. I think I actually got a better sense of Alexander than Alash. Making their ways of speech and how they respond to each other will help flesh them out. Right now, as I said below, they seem to waver in age depending on how they speak. Getting in a reference to Alash's soldier background on the first page might also help out.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "It was the further away of the two capitals,"
--this is a bit awkward and confusing, especially right at the beginning.

pg 3: "Ala found Alex standing in the doorway, looking both awed and rather worn for an nineteen year old."
--Is Alex only 19? I got the impression he was much older and that Ala was younger, for some reason.

pg 4: "Don’t get acting like that now, you were doing so good"
--This makes me see Alex as older. His character isn't coming across as consistent to me. Both he and Ala are waffling in their resposes. One moment they seem like older men, and the next like teenagers.


 

This is historical fantasy... in that it's set in another world. I've been calling it Alt History because it's got no traditional fantasy stuff. 

Lemme show what I mean; 

Finally, she spoke. “Unless the Reimunate is prepared for this, they’ll break into the plains in and burn everything or even try to capture Molbul. The great farmlands of the western Reimunate lie unguarded, and the city of Lylos has no walls. The cedar reserves will be burned, and probably attempts will be made to burn the entire forest. They’ll throw the tools and equipment into the rivers. Without the ability to build new ships, the Stalavan Navy will wage a war of attrition. If things really go according to plan, Molbul could be sieged.”

Alash might not be familiar with geopolitics, but he was an excellent soldier. “If the walls of Modbul are anything like what I’ve heard, thirty thousand isn’t even close to enough men.”

Tyio nodded. “The Stalavan Primarch will bring in the Emperor of Astrava, calling in the favors he got by letting the Astaravans trade through Stalava. They’ll use the Stalavan fleet to move the great levies from the mouth of the Strelv, and they’ll form the weight behind the Thirstarian spearhead. That army can take Molbul.”

Alexander, who, miracle of miracles, seemed to be keeping up, asked the question before Alash had figured out the answer. “What about the Reimunate armies? Last true levy was supposedly a hundred thousand men.”

Tyio looked even grimmer. “The Ladimous Trevvia is the King of both Bomark and Thirstaria, assuming Gegian don Streaf died without an heir sometime in the past five years. Bomark can call on many allies within the Blessed Imperium, and boasts forty thousand levies itself, plus whatever the Thirstarian emergency levy amounts to. They’ll become a blocking force and pin down the Reiminate levy, if it’s even in Thirstaria.”

There are pages more where that came from if I really wanted to. 

This isn't really fantasy, because fantasy generally relies on a simple world with limited political or economic scope. My world is Europe in the year 1450, at this point, because I'm focusing on characters and ignoring worldbuilding, and that's the setting that comes easiest to me. (there are minor changes to make things that matter simpler for the reader, but I'm leaving the background complex atm.) However, I changed all the names to eliminate peoples preconceived notions about an area.  Seblkina is Serbia. Taldovia is Wallachia. Thirstaria is Hungary. etc etc. I'm doing fun stuff with the religions and need to develop those more, and probably should abandon "Jewish" and switch to something. Not sure exactly how to play that. It's a key part of Tyio as a character, but I haven't developed her enough to know what I want to do there.

 

What do you mean by "making their ways of speech?"

Good point about the background. Might replace the letter. 

 

Ages: Alash was going to be in his mid-twenties, with Alexander being younger (neither of them know how old they actually are). The problem is they're both relatively grizzled adults by their society's standards. Alash was a full-blown Marshal (master of horse, essentially the commander of the cavalry for a minor lord) in "Zelodow" (The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) at the age of 23, which isn't particularly unusual. Alexander was eight when the village got wiped out and survived because somebody fell on him. His foster parents died of plague and he assumed full control of the farm when he was fifteen. Again, not particularly unusual. 

So their characters act old. The whole time writing this I've been trying to come up with a way to convey that to the audience, but I may just have to rethink their characters; I'm not old enough to write a bunch of people in their thirties convincingly. 

 

Thanks so much for your help, and no need to respond to all of this in detail unless you want to lol. I'm just getting thoughts on paper here. 

 

Edited by mrwizard70
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, mrwizard70 said:

What do you mean by "making their ways of speech?"

Missed a word: Making their ways of speaking different

13 hours ago, mrwizard70 said:

probably should abandon "Jewish" and switch to something.

Definitely. If you've changed all the country names around, no need to keep a name where insults to a culture will drive some readers away.

13 hours ago, mrwizard70 said:

So their characters act old.

Hmmm...maybe consider the effect of experience, vs. learning things? Someone with experience commanding troops will naturally act older than someone who has never been out of the village.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome back!  I'm excited to see that it looks like you're taking on that historical travelogue you were talking about. :) Over all, I think there's an interesting premise here, and the use of actual history as a backdrop for a fantasy story is a well-known device (Game of Thrones and the War of the Roses, and Outlander and the Jacobite rebellions being famous modern examples).  So you're in good company. :) 

That said, I agree with @Mandamon  in that the characters don't seem well-grounded in their ages.  They don't have to be in their 30s to be mature, but they need to be consistent in the maturity they have.  Most of the time, the characters sounded like adults, and that's fine, but then they'd have a line that made them sound like modern teenagers, and it's the the both of those things right next to each other that is causing the disconnect for me. One option might be to have the characters mention somewhere that despite what seems like their youth to us, they have in fact been acting as adults in their society for many years. Something like working in that Ale has been managing his family farm for X years, ever since he reached his majority at age Y. Just something to work in how long they've actually been adults maybe? 
 
I also agree that the references to Judiasm and Islam need to go. They're especially jarring alongside the fantasy country names, and real-life religious bigotry is never going to go over well, regardless of historical accuracy. Additionally, the word used to describe Ty is seen as a racial slur by some. Even when it is not seen as outright highly offensive, its use by anyone who can't claim the word for themselves (that is, anyone not female-identifying and Jewish) is a dubious and condescending use at best.  Changing the religions to fantasy religions would get rid of all of that, and cement the location as a fantasy world for the reader. 
 
Here's a really good discussion about the use of that word. It has several different Jewish scholars and activists talking about their own experiences with it:  Tablet: Is it cool to say Jewess? 
 


As I go:
 
I'm noticing a few grammar issues, nothing too terrible, but especially the beginning could use a pass for typos.
 
All this talk of medieval travel remind me of the Orbis website, which is a cool interactive map of the Roman Empire that lets you pick your travel route and will calculate a travel time based on all sorts of things you choose, like social class/wealth, weather, and method of transportation (military relay riders could really book it!)  http://orbis.stanford.edu
 
Is there a reason Ty has to be shrewish, shrill, and nagging to all of the men around her? The shrewish woman is a very old, sexist trope that really isn't playing very well for me here.  Yes, she has reason to be defensive, but the words used to describe her bring to mind outdated, harmful stereotypes that make her seem very unrealistic to me. 
 
I don't think Ala has "too much" PTSD. He seems remarkably well-adjusted for being through one or more bloody wars. If anything, I think he could have more flashbacks and reactions, though they wouldn't have to be in this section specifically. This section could use a bit more of his reason for going with the other two, though. They seem to both have very good, believable reasons for leaving the village and joining the army, but I'm a little unclear why exactly Ala is going back. 
 
I enjoyed this introduction and am looking forward to reading more about these characters! 
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

Welcome back!  I'm excited to see that it looks like you're taking on that historical travelogue you were talking about. :) Over all, I think there's an interesting premise here, and the use of actual history as a backdrop for a fantasy story is a well-known device (Game of Thrones and the War of the Roses, and Outlander and the Jacobite rebellions being famous modern examples).  So you're in good company. :) 

That said, I agree with @Mandamon  in that the characters don't seem well-grounded in their ages.  They don't have to be in their 30s to be mature, but they need to be consistent in the maturity they have.  Most of the time, the characters sounded like adults, and that's fine, but then they'd have a line that made them sound like modern teenagers, and it's the the both of those things right next to each other that is causing the disconnect for me. One option might be to have the characters mention somewhere that despite what seems like their youth to us, they have in fact been acting as adults in their society for many years. Something like working in that Ale has been managing his family farm for X years, ever since he reached his majority at age Y. Just something to work in how long they've actually been adults maybe? 
 
I also agree that the references to Judiasm and Islam need to go. They're especially jarring alongside the fantasy country names, and real-life religious bigotry is never going to go over well, regardless of historical accuracy. Additionally, the word used to describe Ty is seen as a racial slur by some. Even when it is not seen as outright highly offensive, its use by anyone who can't claim the word for themselves (that is, anyone not female-identifying and Jewish) is a dubious and condescending use at best.  Changing the religions to fantasy religions would get rid of all of that, and cement the location as a fantasy world for the reader. 
 
Here's a really good discussion about the use of that word. It has several different Jewish scholars and activists talking about their own experiences with it:  Tablet: Is it cool to say Jewess? 
 


As I go:
 
I'm noticing a few grammar issues, nothing too terrible, but especially the beginning could use a pass for typos.
 
All this talk of medieval travel remind me of the Orbis website, which is a cool interactive map of the Roman Empire that lets you pick your travel route and will calculate a travel time based on all sorts of things you choose, like social class/wealth, weather, and method of transportation (military relay riders could really book it!)  http://orbis.stanford.edu
 
Is there a reason Ty has to be shrewish, shrill, and nagging to all of the men around her? The shrewish woman is a very old, sexist trope that really isn't playing very well for me here.  Yes, she has reason to be defensive, but the words used to describe her bring to mind outdated, harmful stereotypes that make her seem very unrealistic to me. 
 
I don't think Ala has "too much" PTSD. He seems remarkably well-adjusted for being through one or more bloody wars. If anything, I think he could have more flashbacks and reactions, though they wouldn't have to be in this section specifically. This section could use a bit more of his reason for going with the other two, though. They seem to both have very good, believable reasons for leaving the village and joining the army, but I'm a little unclear why exactly Ala is going back. 
 
I enjoyed this introduction and am looking forward to reading more about these characters! 
5

I enjoyed poking around Orbis, thanks very much.

Re: religion 

How hard do I need to scrub them? Are ghetto, caliph, and golem off-limits words? 

 

These are notes for me when I start my editing. Thanks for the feedback.

ouch. I really need to work on ty. 

A: being discriminated against and her and Ale overcoming that is going to be a critical part of their character arcs, and I thought that using real-world prejudice would give it more weight. 

B. She's supposed to be relatively attractive and close to their age. She's also supposed to be vastly more intelligent than either of them. They literally can't see it because she's a different religion, but I guess I should make that more clear. 

C. She's making a run for the capital, not joining the army. 

 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, mrwizard70 said:

How hard do I need to scrub them? Are ghetto, caliph, and golem off-limits words? 

Please keep in mind I'm not Jewish, so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt...

To my mind, those word have both a secular and religious meaning, so I think, if the words were used in their secular meaning, in an otherwise wholly-secondary-world fantasy story, then they'd be okay. I'd be more skeptical about their use in a religious context in a fantasy story.

In a more general sense, my instinct is to make an analogy to copyright, which sounds weird, but hear me out. So, like, you can't copyright an idea; you copyright a specific instance of an idea fixed in a tangible medium. So, I can't make a grimdark horror novel starring Mickey Mouse, right? The Mouse is copyrighted, but the idea of talking anthropomorphic mice is not copyrightable, so I can make my grimdark story with talking anthro mice no problem. So, like, to me, it's fine to take ideas from real world religions, but the trouble starts when readers begin to see identifiable characteristics of specific real world religions in the fantasy story religion. If that makes sense?  

 

16 hours ago, mrwizard70 said:

and I thought that using real-world prejudice would give it more weight. 

Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the real world prejudices expressed by characters in the story are imputed to the author, and unless it is handled very, very deftly, the entire story (and by extension the author) is seen to be condoning or approving of those prejudices. It's tough. Adding a layer of fantasy or allegory can sort of help insulate or encapsulate the prejudice and make it easier for readers to see it as part of a story. That's how the original Star Trek got all those highly political commentaries on the social issues of the time onto prime time TV, after all. :) 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, I have managed to frantically rationalise that it might be more helpful if I jump straight to Version 2, and therefore not have my comments coloured by stuff that you've changed already. Makes perfect sense to me, and reduces my homework ;) 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Robinski said:

So, I have managed to frantically rationalise that it might be more helpful if I jump straight to Version 2, and therefore not have my comments coloured by stuff that you've changed already. Makes perfect sense to me, and reduces my homework ;) 

I actually ask for people to do that in my email. please do!

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
59 minutes ago, mrwizard70 said:

I actually ask for people to do that in my email. please do!

You do, and I have!! :) 

Brace yourself, btw :unsure: 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

General

As you'll see as you go below, I didn't make it past the first page. Jew*** is one of those words that can be really problematic, and is generally only appropriate for use by Jewish women. It's the same for words like 'queer.' You see them in use, but 'queer' can only really be used (in the USA, anyway), by the queer population. 

Now, it is entirely possibly that you are trying to use the word to showcase a character's problems, or showcase a time period. This is, of course, your right to do so. Without more warning or prefacing for that, however, seeing something like that in a book will get me to put it down and walk away every time. 

This goes back to a conversation we had on the board a few weeks ago, over on one of @Robinski's threads. How do you write a racist character without writing a racist narrative? The discussion there was really good and I think might be worth having a gander. I'm happy to field questions, of course.

On 10/1/2018 at 10:48 AM, Mandamon said:

but you will probably need a very good sensitivity/targeted reader to know how it comes across.

I think I have answered this. Aheh.

On 10/1/2018 at 3:47 PM, mrwizard70 said:

and probably should abandon "Jewish"

Yes. This would be an excellent idea.

 

 

As I go

- birch, alder, and yew do not grow together as trees. You can have birch and yew together with alder that is basically a shrub, but it wouldn't be a tree

- the path goes OVER a sea?

- confused how a path marches

- I do not suggest using the actual names of gods in a story unless you practice that religion. 

'Jew***'? Nope. I'm out.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, kais said:

General

As you'll see as you go below, I didn't make it past the first page. Jew*** is one of those words that can be really problematic, and is generally only appropriate for use by Jewish women. It's the same for words like 'queer.' You see them in use, but 'queer' can only really be used (in the USA, anyway), by the queer population. 

Now, it is entirely possibly that you are trying to use the word to showcase a character's problems, or showcase a time period. This is, of course, your right to do so. Without more warning or prefacing for that, however, seeing something like that in a book will get me to put it down and walk away every time. 

This goes back to a conversation we had on the board a few weeks ago, over on one of @Robinski's threads. How do you write a racist character without writing a racist narrative? The discussion there was really good and I think might be worth having a gander. I'm happy to field questions, of course.

I think I have answered this. Aheh.

Yes. This would be an excellent idea.

 

 

As I go

- birch, alder, and yew do not grow together as trees. You can have birch and yew together with alder that is basically a shrub, but it wouldn't be a tree

- the path goes OVER a sea?

- confused how a path marches

- I do not suggest using the actual names of gods in a story unless you practice that religion. 

'Jew***'? Nope. I'm out.

So generally what I'm getting from the responses here is that dealing with real-world religions, or the ideas of racism, nationalism, and generally medieval culture is a bad idea. Nothing in this section is even remotely close to the vileness I was planning to have characters spew down the road, so I guess I need to rethink the whole concept. My fantasy is not other's fantasy. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.