MistbornAlpaca

12/10 - MistbonAlpaca - (Untitled) Chapter 1 (V)(G) - 4723 Words

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Hey all!

Super excited to submit again! Throw everything you've got at me, but I'm really looking for 2 things in particular, 1) are the characters interesting? Would you follow them through the rest of the story? 2) I feel like my pacing within the individual scenes is way too fast. Any thoughts?
Thx in advance for your critiques!
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This is definitely improving! D gives a good counterpoint to S, and gives us another perspective on the society. I'm not totally hooked on the story yet, but more hooked than last time. To your main questions:

1) My main problem is still with S. She's fairly interesting, but does not at all seem like a leader of people or an experienced practitioner. I don't think you give her age anywhere, but if she was the youngest master, or very precocious, I might buy that explanation. There's a problem as well with having a senior leader as a POV character--they can just give the task to someone else. D, on the other hand, is a good developing character. We haven't really seen enough yet to know what he's doing, however.

2) I didn't have a problem with the pacing. If anything, it slowed down in S's POV once she left the murder scene.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "The sight was sickening."
--This is either unneeded, because of the description on the previous line, or expand it to show what S. is feeling.

pg 1: "and not to be dealt with"
--passive and vague . Something like "could never be held by one person or X terrible thing would happen" is a lot more specific.

pg 1/2: S still comes across as young. If she's a master of something, I'm assuming she has years of experience with dealing with hardship and death. Her actions with T. come across as an apprentice grieving for a mentor

pg 2: "Crack"
--I'm not a big fan of this capitalization, since it's a common word. Does it need to be?

pg 3: "ready for her next task"
--why is this her task? Is there anyone else who could help? Is she even suited for it?

pg 3: "His feet were burnt and blistered from the hot sand, his skin raw from the constant blasting sand, and his shoulders were sore from carrying the weight of the pouch of sand. However he still had all of the bags of sand,"
--four repetitions of "sand" and two references to the pouch it's in.
"He crawled against the side of a sand dune, dragging his pouch of sand bags."
--and again...

pg 3: "The sun was high in the sky, right above D."
--take out the last part--it's obvious.

pg 5: "Something was driving him forward. He barely noticed the weight of the sand bags anymore."
--So he just decided he's not tired anymore and suddenly he isn't?

pg 5: "But now the Beast was here, inside the Circle
--strange capitalization

pg 6: "It had a pointed head attached to a bulbous body, with eight massive legs protruding from it."
--can we get a slightly more exciting description of the creature bearing down on him?

pg 6: "Why couldn’t the Sand Lords have made N. out of something other than sand?"
--funny, but this sort of thing ages S. down.

pg 7: "Aides"
--doesn't need to be capitalized.

pg 8: The bit about getting dress drags down the tension.

pg 10: "but as the danger seemed to fade"
--what danger? Is there a larger problem we're not aware of?

pg 10: "S didn’t remember the rest of the meeting"
--really? There was probably some important information in there...

pg 11: Is D. dead and seeing things as a ghost? How is he in the air? Is this a dream?

pg 12: ok, I think this is a dream, but not really sure what's going on.

pg 14: "Right, my leg"
--I would think the terrible pain would keep him aware of this...


 

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Overall

I'd suggest picking just one of your POV characters and letting us interact with just them for a few chapters before moving on to another. It was really hard to get invested in anyone with the constant change, and I was left with no clear narrative direction nor interest in the characters. I think Shy has some good potential, since her introduction also shows an inciting incident, but the world needs to be a bit better developed around her as to the stakes of this thing disappearing and her involvement (and whatever religion/magic thing they practice).

To answer your questions: 

Are the characters interesting?

Shy is interesting only because of her proximity to your inciting incident. D is thus far not a person of note.

Would I follow them through the rest of the story?

I might give it another chapter to see if a narrative arc is established but at this point, I'd waffle. It wouldn't be enough to get me to buy it at a bookstore, but I might check it out from a library because I like sand magic

Pacing

I don't think the pacing was so bad as much as the world wasn't defined enough, and the characters needed more defined arcs. But that can be rectified in edits easily.

Also, it's good to see you back on the boards!

 

As I go

- Within the first two paragraphs, I already have Capitalization Fatigue

Any normal person slamming their fist as hard as they could into a block of extremely dense sandstone would have bruises and sores for days, maybe even break a finger or two, but for a Cracker like Shy, there was only a slight vibration, a pleasant tingling -- these types of explanations I think really detract from the power of the action. We know that most people can't shatter sandstone like that, so we don't really need it explained to us

- Two pages in is too soon for a POV switch, for me. I don't yet care about our first character, so I will have an even harder time caring about the second. Give us a good chapter or two to really get invested before head hopping.

- last paragraph on page three has a lot of 'sand' repetition

- It's hard not to skim all this sand stuff with D, as I don't yet know why I should are about him

- pg 9: not sure 'Cracker' is the word you want to use for this skill. I can't stop laughing

- Shy would never forgive herself for not being there with him when he needed her.  Confused. Why did he need her? How is this her fault?

- How does Den just walk into this place where his dead father is? Isn't there security? I mean, a major artifact was just stolen. Where are the guards? The investigators??

- pg 13: I think we need some inkling that D finding his dead father is a dream sequence, because I was very confused

 

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17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I didn't have a problem with the pacing. If anything, it slowed down in S's POV once she left the murder scene.

 

I'm glad the pacing worked! I was a little worried about it.

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 2: "Crack"
--I'm not a big fan of this capitalization, since it's a common word. Does it need to be?

It is part of the magic system, so I believe it should be capitalized... but now I can't remember... are magic systems capitalized? Also, to @kais point, I really don't like the term Crack/Cracker either, it makes me laugh too. I've been trying to think of something better but haven't found anything yet aside from maybe 'division' 'divider' 'divided' which feels clunky to me. Any ideas? 

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 3: "ready for her next task"
--why is this her task? Is there anyone else who could help? Is she even suited for it?

Hmm, that's true. I guess my idea was it could have been one of the Masters (it was one of the Masters but she doesn't know that yet) so she couldn't trust anyone, I'll have to work on getting that across.

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "But now the Beast was here, inside the Circle
--strange capitalization

Yep I've had a lot of weird capitalizations, like 'Circle' and 'Aide' I've fixed most of those later in the story, but forgot to change these.

16 hours ago, kais said:

Also, it's good to see you back on the boards!

Good to be back! Thanks for putting up with my amateur submissions :D

17 hours ago, kais said:

Two pages in is too soon for a POV switch, for me. I don't yet care about our first character, so I will have an even harder time caring about the second. Give us a good chapter or two to really get invested before head hopping.

In the actual draft I don't have the POV switches so soon. I arranged them like so in the submission hoping to get takes on a couple characters at once, but in hindsight probably wasn't the best idea.

17 hours ago, kais said:

How does Den just walk into this place where his dead father is? Isn't there security? I mean, a major artifact was just stolen. Where are the guards? The investigators??

That was a dream sequence, and I will definitely make that more clear, but this is a very good point, and I hadn't even thought about security after it was stolen.

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

My main problem is still with S. She's fairly interesting, but does not at all seem like a leader of people or an experienced practitioner. I don't think you give her age anywhere, but if she was the youngest master, or very precocious, I might buy that explanation. There's a problem as well with having a senior leader as a POV character--they can just give the task to someone else.

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1/2: S still comes across as young. If she's a master of something, I'm assuming she has years of experience with dealing with hardship and death. Her actions with T. come across as an apprentice grieving for a mentor

17 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 6: "Why couldn’t the Sand Lords have made N. out of something other than sand?"
--funny, but this sort of thing ages S. down.

Could these problems be fixed by aging her down? And maybe making her a sort of apprentice that has to take T's place after his death? Now that I'm thinking about it I'm really liking this idea, but would it be too similar to the other young characters?

 

 

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The pacing was fine for me, but i did got the image that S was an older woman with gray hair or at least close to.

I got the impression that D was an apprentice to one of the monasteries.

But it took me some time to understand that D was not a ghost yet, because it is implied that sand beasts are dangeruos and/or man eating, so why he is not dead?

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1 hour ago, MistbornAlpaca said:

Could these problems be fixed by aging her down? And maybe making her a sort of apprentice that has to take T's place after his death? Now that I'm thinking about it I'm really liking this idea, but would it be too similar to the other young characters?

I think it would work a lot better to age S down and make her an apprentice, or a new master. I really like the idea of a mature female protagonist, but unless she is not in control of things, it's really hard to get enough tension.

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I like this so far! The pacing is good and I found S interesting, but I did find her younger than I think you meant her to be. D's problem is intriguing but as a character he hasn't caught my interest yet. I'd also like to spend more time with S before switching to someone else, just to get more grounded in the story. I agree with what everyone else has mentioned already so I don't have anything new to add there. I enjoyed your writing and would definitely like to read more about S.

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Overall, I agree with much of what @Mandamon and @kais have said. S is an interesting character, and I like her, but she reads to me as a young master or senior journeyman, not an established master of any great age. D is tougher. I'm not as interested in him, but his section was also one where I felt there were some factual inaccuracies that kept me from really engaging with his POV. Additionally, Having two POVs in the first chapter, compounded by what I'm recalling of the dead man's POV in the prologue, feels to me like too many new points of view too quickly, and that would also contribute to my inability to engage with the characters.
 
On 12/11/2018 at 8:29 AM, MistbornAlpaca said:

I really don't like the term Crack/Cracker either, it makes me laugh too. I've been trying to think of something better but haven't found anything yet

To the thesaurus! Crack -- shatter, break, divide, sunder, carve, split, part, dissociate, rend, sever, chop, cleave, breach, fracture, schism, beat, ruin, mangle, contuse, pummel, wreck, pulverize, crumble, splinter, pound, grind, fragment, hammer, smash... Or you could just make up a word, maybe with some hard 'k', 't', or 'p' sounds to echo the nature of the power?

 
As I go: 
 
From what I remember of the prologue, I feel like the story could start here with S without the prologue and be just fine. I like S and I'd like to spend more time with her. 
 
For D's parts, it might be worthwhile to look up some information on how the human body reacts to high temperatures and lack of water, or even just desert survival in general. Running, sweating, even feeling hunger and thirst, all of these things function differently under high heat and stress. Here and Here are a couple links that I found that seem like they might be helpful.  I had a hard time getting into D's parts, mostly from what I think are dissonances between what I know of the effects of dehydration and sunstroke and the what D is described as doing and feeling during his trek. 
 
"They were beautiful and extremely comfortable"  -- official, highly formal clothing for women being "extremely comfortable?" Now that's a fantasy world I can get behind! :) 
 
Just a gentle reminder that it's okay to have female characters display basic competency skills AND enjoy getting dressed up now and then. S isn't a bad character by any stretch, but in this dressing scene I feel like she's falling a bit into the She's Not Like Other Girls trope 
 
I was a bit confused by D's vision. I also thought he was dead at first. 
 
 
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Overall: I can't remember if I read the last part or not, but I am interested. Not fully hooked, but if this were something I picked up on the shelf, I'd be willing to give it more time. You set up for a clear arc from S's point of view, though I'm not sure about D's yet. S seems a little more developed so far. 

You asked about characters and pacing. I noticed a pattern in some of your chapters. Very distant, neutral emotionless description of some scene of destruction, followed by an emotional reaction that builds gradually. This made it hard to engage with the characters because at first, I thought them very distant, emotionless, I thought it was intentional, but then as you worked their reaction in, I realized I was wrong about them, so I had to readjust the lens I was reading it through, then, just as I was starting to get a sense of the character, it switched. I think it would work better if the reaction and description were woven together more. 

The transitions were jarring, and even though I can how you were trying to build suspense with D, the way him passing out and his dream were divided did not work for me. I was very very confused and I didn't like it. 

S I'm picturing at least middle aged or older, sad, and tired. I'm rooting for her. I liked her by the middle of her second scene.

I know very little about D. He told readers he likes competition. He seems determined. But I didn't learn enough about who he is to understand why he is doing what he is doing. 

Here are some notes I made as I read:

"...brushed a stray gray..." Here was the first sign she wasn't as numb and detached as I thought. 

"shy shivered." Here was where I was starting to have to readjust, which pulled me out. I think more of these little cues need to be present in the first few sentences of describing the scene. 

"step step step" This transition was jarring, but an easy fix might be starting with "D... stumbled, falling..." and if you are attached to the part before it, incorporate it after somehow. 

"blacked out" I didn't learn enough about him here to really care about his plight through the desert or his fight. I would have rather stayed with S longer. I think S's narrative could've just continued straight through.

[Council building] Why the brackets? I noticed these a few places for council building and maybe magic users too. Was it a placeholder you didn't mean to leave in? Or does it have some other significance? 

"...it had been that long..." I don't know what time it was when she went in and don't know what time the meeting was at so this doesn't really mean much to me. 

Lots of names in the meeting. 

"...Would they?..." Up until here, the description of the destroyed city felt very very distant and emotionless, but here, there was finally a reaction, which made me readjust what I thought of whoever was narrating. These questions showed curiosity, but I still couldn't tell how much the narrator cared about the destroyed city. 

"...down here, he could see so much more..." back to neutral and distant. 

I also want to not that through this whole section, I kept thinking this was a new narrator or not. I guess I had forgot D's name already, or just never got invested enough in him to commit to memory, and the voice seemed different. 

"Filled with horror" too telly, but after this, I got engaged. After this, you had me feeling his fear. 

Except for the stepping back and slipping. That is a cliche move, but one I shouldn't complain about because I use it too much. 

"moving wordlessly." This seemed odd for the narrator to use about himself. It is more something I picture one character thinking about another. 

"...lying on cracked sand..." I was very annoyed at this reveal that it had been a dream. I was confused through most of the dream because I hadn't thought the city would've been that damaged with S going to a meeting, but kept on reading, and then I got here and felt cheated. 

"He was also dizzy...emotionally traumatized..." too much telling 

"Sand beasts leg" I thought that thing had he upper hand in the fight. I thought when he blacked out, he was going to wake up rescued, not alone with the monster gone. I'm wondering why the monster didn't finish him off if he passed out, even if it was injured. 

"...long crawl" He seems very calm about this. Is this characters someone who often finds himself in painful, deadly situations? 

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On 12/10/2018 at 4:11 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 1/2: S still comes across as young. If she's a master of something, I'm assuming she has years of experience with dealing with hardship and death. Her actions with T. come across as an apprentice grieving for a mentor

I thought she came across old, tired, and frail...and her reaction seemed like grieving an peer or mentee...interesting how different two perspectives can be of the same character. 

 

On 12/10/2018 at 4:11 PM, Mandamon said:

My main problem is still with S. She's fairly interesting, but does not at all seem like a leader of people or an experienced practitioner. I don't think you give her age anywhere, but if she was the youngest master, or very precocious, I might buy that explanation.

I didn't see her in a whole lot of control of people either, but I think I read that as she was too tired to be, to worn out,  and kind of trying to motivate herself to do something.

That, or I was thinking the scene was just moving too fast and not delving into her POV deeply enough. 

 

On 12/10/2018 at 4:11 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "Something was driving him forward. He barely noticed the weight of the sand bags anymore."
--So he just decided he's not tired anymore and suddenly he isn't?

I felt this way too.

 

On 12/10/2018 at 4:11 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 14: "Right, my leg"
--I would think the terrible pain would keep him aware of this...

 

I second this comment. 

 

On 12/10/2018 at 4:21 PM, kais said:

I'd suggest picking just one of your POV characters and letting us interact with just them for a few chapters before moving on to another. It was really hard to get invested in anyone with the constant change, and I was left with no clear narrative direction nor interest in the characters. I think Shy has some good potential, since her introduction also shows an inciting incident, but the world needs to be a bit better developed around her as to the stakes of this thing disappearing and her involvement (and whatever religion/magic thing they practice).

Kais has a point. I think at least one decent sized chapter just from S's POV would help me engage and get to know her better. 

On 12/13/2018 at 2:40 PM, industrialistDragon said:

Just a gentle reminder that it's okay to have female characters display basic competency skills AND enjoy getting dressed up now and then. S isn't a bad character by any stretch, but in this dressing scene I feel like she's falling a bit into the She's Not Like Other Girls trope 

I think letting her enjoy getting the hair done a little more, even lingering in that moment, could be a way to further establish her as an older woman, I picture my mom and grandmother, who aren't/weren't the type of really put much effort into appearances, enjoy letting people just do what they want with her hair (people being the kids I hung out with growing up).

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On 12/11/2018 at 9:29 AM, MistbornAlpaca said:

Could these problems be fixed by aging her down? And maybe making her a sort of apprentice that has to take T's place after his death? Now that I'm thinking about it I'm really liking this idea, but would it be too similar to the other young characters?

I'd rather her stay old...and didn't really see anything young about her. They have a point about her not being completely in charge or in control, but youth wouldn't be the only explanation. OR you could try and make her seem a little more leaderly. 

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 1 – I’ve decided I really like the ‘scholars and children’ line.

Pg. 3 – Perspective shift, and I have no idea what’s going on now. All I know is that sand must be important.

Pg. 5 – And now I’m getting White Sand vibes.

Pg. 6-7 are unavailable to load…?

Pg. 6 – And we’re back, I had to download it. That’s odd, wonder if it happened to anyone else.

Pg. 9 – Too much exposition, take it from someone who runs with the same problem.

Pg. 10 – We’re back to D, who is flying. Not sure how’s he’s doing that, or how he survived getting stabbed in the leg.

Pg. 13 – Never mind, dream sequence.

Overall:

I’m interested in more. We have a mystery combined with an ominous vision, and those are two ingredients I enjoy in my fantasy. That said, the D perspective shifts were a bit stilted (I think that’s the word I want) in terms of connecting to the flow of S’s segments, and the backstory was lacking in D’s, while information was repeated in S. This also seems like a good chapter to use as a prologue, or maybe add it to the prologue.

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