aeromancer

Reading Excuses - 11/26/18 - aeromancer - Heist! Part I (4865)

7 posts in this topic

This is part one of a two-part short of a heist short story I tried out, for variety. Because I intend to submit the Part II next week, I may not be able to answer / address all the points as they may relate to spoilers, so I apologize for that in advance. That said, all feedback is welcome. I'm looking for, specifically, how the buildup went. I've tried to do my best attempt at Chekov's Gun, so if anything jumps at you as important for later, I'd really appreciate you pointing it out.

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Overall

While I liked this one better than the gambling story (probably because I like alcohol better than gambling), I thought there were too many POV characters in a short space, and it took too long to discover the plot. Ideally I'd like to see the through line in the first page or two. I feel like the story really starts on page 11, and you could probably cut everything leading up to it. 

How the buildup went: it kept getting cut off because the POV kept switching. I'd start to get invested and them bam, it was someone else. The last few pages had some promise, for sure, but I think we need to get to the auction sooner, and through fewer people. 

Your writing has gotten more solid for sure! Especially since you first joined the boards. I think your characters still need some differentiated voices, but mechanically your writing has come a long way. Nice!

 

As I go

- I think you could combine the first and second sentence, with some rearrangement, and have it pack a lot more of a punch

- Ak has too much knowledge, I think, that comes too readily. It takes out any tension that might build. Maybe have him work for the answers more? Otherwise it's just infodumpy

- you've got more redundancy on page five with the inherited from mother bit

- Is there a break between pages five and six? Why do we go from discussion of wine to ropes?

- oh, is this a completely different POV too? Since this is chapter one, I'd advise against mid-chapter POV breaks. I don't yet have any vested interest in the first POV character. Give me some time to settle in before another

- pg9: another POV in the same chapter. I'm overwhelmed now

- pg 11: I've meet three POV characters thus far, but still don't know what the plot or through line is

- it strikes me as very odd that something that doesn't get any bids just gets given to someone. That cannot possibly be a thing

- the plot seems to actually start on page 12, where we learn there is a 'team,' which hints at a through line

- the ending is fairly satisfying

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Overall, I liked where this one is going! Heist stories interest me, and the writing and dialogue were pretty solid. I do agree with kais though, the POV switches were a bit jarring, especially the first one from E to G. The characters sounded similar, but that's something I struggle with too and it can be fixed with practice. The ending was great and the buildup there was very nice, but it wasn't as strong as it could have been through the rest of the story. Limiting the number of POVs could help with that.

-pg 6: ...stinging the thief... I was taken out of the story a bit here when G was referred to as "the thief" when you just used "his" for him earlier.

-There should be a "the" before interior.

-"He wasn't going to blame..." This read like a run-on sentence.

-pg11: I find it hard to believe that an un-bid on item is just given to someone. This might make sense, but there should be more explanation.

-pg13: "...which he intended to." I don't think you need this.

-pg17: Should be "you can't sell it."

I'm looking forward to reading part 2!

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17 hours ago, kais said:

While I liked this one better than the gambling story (probably because I like alcohol better than gambling), I thought there were too many POV characters in a short space, and it took too long to discover the plot. Ideally I'd like to see the through line in the first page or two. I feel like the story really starts on page 11, and you could probably cut everything leading up to it. 

Agree. We're here for the heist, and too much buildup takes away from it.

17 hours ago, kais said:

Your writing has gotten more solid for sure! Especially since you first joined the boards. I think your characters still need some differentiated voices, but mechanically your writing has come a long way. Nice!

Also agree! This reads even better than the last one.

 

I would say you can probably keep some of the information before pg 11, but there are a lot of asides for infodumps scattered throughout. They could probably be cut down quite a bit and still get the same information across.

I wasn't as bothered by the POV switches as the others were, but you could easily limit it to J and A. I don't think the others are really necessary. E's intro is largely infodump.

There are some technical plot problems that popped out to me. I've noted them below. Perhaps some of them are tied up in the second session, so I'm eager to find out!

 

Notes while reading:
pg 1: "matters of his clothes, his cups"
--his cups were expensive? Do you mean his choice in alcohol?

pg 1: you've lost me in the second parapraph. All this is a dry infodump on someone we don't care about.

pg 1: paragraph 3 is the start of the story. It shows most of what was told in the first two paragraphs...

pg 3: I guess E isn't as familiar with wine as he thought?

pg 5: “Is that so?” A. gave an eerie smile. A sudden chill went down Lord E's spine. “I have heard quite differently.”
--E is getting less and less competent as the story progresses. A was said to be bad at social interaction, but he trips up the lord who's been involved in sketchy business for years? 

pg 5: "The book A. was asking about was indeed..."
--There's a lot of extra words here. I got the gist of the book very quickly.

pg 5: "Perhaps our usual arrangement would suffice…?”
--This backs up the comment above. They've done this dance before, so why would E. be cautious about A knowing of illegal books in his library?

pg 7: "sneak his dark figure"
--Sounds like he's sneaking a dark mannequin.

pg 7: "G. stabbed the top"
--I don't think you can stab glass, even with a diamond knife.

pg 7: "The thief fell twenty feet."
--this seems...extremely problematic, and very likely to break bones, even if he goes into a roll.

pg 9: "The layout was gotten for him previously "
--awkward

pg 10: the confrontation between J and E is pretty blatant, especially in front of a room of people used to shady dealings. Calling J out like that would probably lose E customers...

pg 11: "not quite worth the asking price at all."
--Really? I guess he doesn't care what he makes off the auction?

pg 11: "he was quite glad his wine had been correctly identified. At least one team member was in place."
--okaaaay...this is a very complex explanation, but I'm willing to read on.

pg 11: "will be randomly given to someone in the audience."
--Ok, there is an explanation for this, but the auction rules keep getting stranger...

pg 11: I'm wondering if J is driving up the prices just for fun, or if there's a reason.

pg 13: "someone with a left black eye and a right blue one. It was an odd look..."
--We already know A knows J. This is unnecessary.

pg 13: "That seemed a bit low for the final item, but nothing else could command the price"
--This seems inconsistent. It's not the final item, so we don't know what it's worth. But E seems to think J has gotten a good deal. So something else can command the price?

pg 13: "the item will command a price of..."
--Why is E revealing this? Won't think make people underbid to get a good deal? 

pg 15: "it’s something that you’ve never heard of" ... "So it seems that it wasn’t a myth."
--Some more inconsistencies. A said one of the things he'd heard of was a myth, so why does E assume that isn't the thing he's auctioning?

pg 15: "as would benefit a scholar"
--unneeded.

pg 15: "and I shall retire with the money made from the sale"
--uh, yeah, he really shouldn't have stated the expected price, then.

pg 15-16: I have some problems with the "gotcha" moment here. First, E should be well aware of the technical niggling J is doing, if he's adept at all about auctioning illegal items. Second, J's accusation comes out of nowhere. We don't know he's an agent beforehand, so it feels like a deus-ex-machina. Third, why ever would J just give away that the item has been stolen, and give away the thief's name?? 

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On 11/27/2018 at 7:06 PM, kais said:

Overall

While I liked this one better than the gambling story (probably because I like alcohol better than gambling), I thought there were too many POV characters in a short space, and it took too long to discover the plot. Ideally I'd like to see the through line in the first page or two. I feel like the story really starts on page 11, and you could probably cut everything leading up to it. 

I see. Add alcohol to please kais. Noted. On a serious note, yes, I was worried amount the amount of characters (I actually wanted to throw in the team's fifth member as well.) I had an internal debate about starting late, and using flashbacks and infodumps to explain what characters got where, or to just write out all the set-up, and then have the action come fast and fierce. I opted for the later. On the downside - yes, it's boring. On the plus side - next submission is going to be much more exciting.

On 11/27/2018 at 7:06 PM, kais said:

How the buildup went: it kept getting cut off because the POV kept switching. I'd start to get invested and them bam, it was someone else. The last few pages had some promise, for sure, but I think we need to get to the auction sooner, and through fewer people. 

Good news: You were invested. I see your point, though. Cuts can, and should be made. (Would just removing all of G's scenes work? I think it might.)

On 11/27/2018 at 7:06 PM, kais said:

Your writing has gotten more solid for sure! Especially since you first joined the boards. I think your characters still need some differentiated voices, but mechanically your writing has come a long way. Nice!

Thank you, it's nice to hear that. (I did have a character sheet for everyone, with notes on personalities, but it got lost. Unfortunate.)

On 11/27/2018 at 7:06 PM, kais said:

- it strikes me as very odd that something that doesn't get any bids just gets given to someone. That cannot possibly be a thing

Most of your 'as I go' is similar to your previous points, which are fair and I will address. This is also a valid point. I kind of just whipped this up, because it's an adequate solution from a game theory perspective to punish cheaters - but it's not how things would actually work, you're right about that.

On 11/27/2018 at 7:06 PM, kais said:

- the ending is fairly satisfying

Primary goal achieved.

 

On 11/28/2018 at 9:10 AM, Truthweaver said:

Overall, I liked where this one is going! Heist stories interest me, and the writing and dialogue were pretty solid. I do agree with kais though, the POV switches were a bit jarring, especially the first one from E to G. The characters sounded similar, but that's something I struggle with too and it can be fixed with practice. The ending was great and the buildup there was very nice, but it wasn't as strong as it could have been through the rest of the story. Limiting the number of POVs could help with that.

First, I'll take a moment to appreciate your member title, as I don't think I have before. Hello, Yrael, who'd you convince to remove your collar?

Second, yes, points are valid, as noted by kais as well. My current move is just to remove all scenes involving G, especially if you find the shift jarring.

On 11/28/2018 at 9:10 AM, Truthweaver said:

I'm looking forward to reading part 2!

Will hopefully be submitted next Monday. Look forward!

 

On 11/28/2018 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

I wasn't as bothered by the POV switches as the others were, but you could easily limit it to J and A. I don't think the others are really necessary. E's intro is largely infodump.

Wow, you've read my mind in advance. That is spooky. As I've noted responding to the previous feedback, and some reflection, yes the plot can very well be advanced using just the pair of J and A. Now to respond to your in-depth analysis:

On 11/28/2018 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 1: "matters of his clothes, his cups"
--his cups were expensive? Do you mean his choice in alcohol?

pg 3: I guess E isn't as familiar with wine as he thought?

It does mean alcohol, yes. I have a tendency to use archaic terms. This scene was originally also going to also be used to poke fun at wine connoisseurs, (the super-rich ones, specifically, I have nothing against people who enjoy a good glass of wine.) That just got abandoned as the dialogue didn't really work for it.

On 11/28/2018 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 7: "G. stabbed the top"
--I don't think you can stab glass, even with a diamond knife.

pg 7: "The thief fell twenty feet."
--this seems...extremely problematic, and very likely to break bones, even if he goes into a roll.

Two valid points, and I'm usually a stickler for this. Both are technically feasible, but there are much easier ways to accomplish both of them.

On 11/28/2018 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 13: "the item will command a price of..."
--Why is E revealing this? Won't think make people underbid to get a good deal? 

pg 15: "and I shall retire with the money made from the sale"
--uh, yeah, he really shouldn't have stated the expected price, then.

Actually, the optimal strategies heavily depend on a lot of factors which aren't fully explained, but E was not incorrect in stating his assumed price. At a normal auction (which this is) the players aren't playing against the rule setter (E, in this case) but each other, which means that E's statement doesn't matter. As long as someone is underbidding what the item should be worth, someone else is willing to bid on that item. For instance, if I auction off 1 dollar, I fully expect the highest bid to be either 99 cents or 1 dollar, regardless of what I announce the 'price I expect' before hand. (It works kind of like free market forces, in a sense.) (If there were, say, a silent auction, then E's statement of 'initial price' would have more of a profound effect.) So E's statement is mostly useless. The reason he gave the minute (and the price) is to give all the players time to decide how much they'd be willing to put in, most auctions have listings beforehand

On 11/28/2018 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 15-16: I have some problems with the "gotcha" moment here. First, E should be well aware of the technical niggling J is doing, if he's adept at all about auctioning illegal items. Second, J's accusation comes out of nowhere. We don't know he's an agent beforehand, so it feels like a deus-ex-machina. Third, why ever would J just give away that the item has been stolen, and give away the thief's name?? 

1: E is. RAFO in the next segment.

2: I thought I mentioned that J was an agent. Must not have been noticeable then.

3. J has a plan. RAFO in the next segment.

Thank you for all the other comments as well.

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I was out of town most of last week, so I'm just getting caught up.

Overall, I agree with a lot of what @kais and @Mandamon have said. There were too many POVS coming too quickly for me to become invested in any one character and I felt like I had no clear idea of what was going on for much of this section. There were also technical issues that I got hung up on, same as mandamon. I do think this is better structured than the last one and improvement is definitely noticeable!

 

As I go:

 

I really like the opening sentence! It is a good hook and interested me, however I skimmed the next page and a half of information on E. The extended summary wasn't able to hold the interest that the first sentence generated, and I got very little of who E was as a person out of them. It seemed to me that the narrator was more on display than the characters in that segment. 

I'm not sure I really believe in the polymath scholar. So far, the only thing A's shown me is that he's arrogant enough to believe he's an expert in everything.

So, E's just got a bunch of legit auction items cheek-by-jowl with fenced goods, hanging out in his study, and he didn't bother to verify authenticity of a piece before taking it on as agent? I'm wondering at this point why anyone would hire him to sell anything legitimate.  Given the way he was blatantly skimming, and his apparent negligence in verifying the goods he's using as a screen for his fenced items, I'd be chary of having him handle my stolen goods as well. 

It took me almost an entire page of G's POV to figure out that he wasn't just E by a different name. I was extremely confused by the abrupt switch and subsequently had trouble figuring out what he was doing with ropes and pitons. 

 Diamond is incredibly hard and stands up to crushing pressures well, but it's very brittle and cleaves very easily. A knife made entirely of diamond going against wrought iron would shatter long before it cut through anything.  

"ques" -- questions? cues? queues? something in Spanish? He goes on to describe features or attributes, so I'm really confused what he's talking about. 

the switch to POV 3, J, is better telegraphed than the switch to G, but I'm starting to feel a bit burned out on new perspectives of the same event. 

And there's E badmouthing an item he's been commissioned to sell, then giving it away for free. Yep, I would NEVER hire him as my agent (which is what an auctioneer is), to sell anything legal, illegal, or anywhere in between.

"gold inlet" = gold inlay?  onlay?

I'm not sure I believe or honestly really care about this attempted arrest or the somewhat conceited way J tries to create a verbal loophole for himself. By the point we actually get to the reveal, I care much more about E than I do any of the other players working against him. Even if he is a terrible auctioneer, he's trying to retire and that's a far more sympathetic motivation than what I'm seeing from the "good" guys, all of which seem uncaring and far too overconfident for me. 

 

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I put my comments for this in with part 2

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