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Majestic Fox

25.03.2019 - The Scent of Magic - Short Story - 2300 words

10 posts in this topic

I quite enjoyed this! My main concern was that it took a little long to get to the main core of the story--really on page 4 of 9. If we had some early indication of what was going on, I think that would pull my attention in sooner. I really liked the alternating POVs showing the two sides of the conflict. One thing that threw me off was that J had killed an ogre, so I was expecting S to be something related to that, not a completely different type of monster.

We get a lot of great character building for J in the latter half, so putting some hints of that in the first half will help show the reader that something else is going on and make them pay attention.


Notes while reading
pg 3: ‘Someone in the village said you impoverished them.’
--interesting

pg 4: "Becoming a mentor was a dream of his, and this girl was not the first person to try and apprentice herself to him."
--I feel like this could be shown earlier on to build J's character earlier.

pg 4: "knat" -> "gnat"

pg 4: "It was too dangerous to send her back to her village alone"
--why? We don't know how far outside the town they are, nor what dangers might be around. I assumed if J killed an ogre, the rest of the forest might be pretty safe.

(Edit: this would be a good place to throw in that shapeshifters are a problem, or state that there was a war, or something)

pg 5: "who had followed him across the valley."
--here we see some distance, but it comes a little late.

pg 5: "She had been holding the shape of the little girl too long"
--cool

pg 6: "hep" -> "help"

pg 6: I like S's POV, but I'm not sure what she is. Not necessarily bad, because it gives a good sense of "other."
Edit: we learn some more on the next page. That helps a lot.

pg 9: "But she had never seen a human gift his own blood to an enemy who sought to take his life."
--very nice ending.

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I really liked this. The pacing was done well and even if there wasn't a lot of background info at the beginning, I was still pulled into the story by the characters' dialogue, which was also done really well. You have a talent for writing natural conversation.

pg 3: "...then why did you agree the price?" Should be "to the price." This sentence confused me a bit...is J referring to what the girl's family agreed to pay? Or just to the village in general?

pg 4: Similar to what @Mandamon said, I'd like a bit more of J's motivations/background to come through. I'm not sure what he's doing yet or what his goal is until we get to his letter.

pg 6: The letter clears things up a bit with J, but I'm still unsure what he's done in the past. Scammed some people in the village and "impoverished" them? I'd like to know more about this.

I need to mention again how natural the dialogue is and how much I love it, and your writing style in general. I have no more comments, except that this feels like it could be expanded from just a short story, and I hope you work on it some more.

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Hello 

I enjoyed the short story. I agree it felt as if it could have been a longer story. The use of two POVs and mentions of other places makes the story seem a little short.

I'd have liked to know J's or the girl's possible age as we weren't really told I think. I think you did great with J's character and would like to know more, such as what makes him so popular as a mentor figure.

-The cakes hadn’t really put a dent in his savings, but he shouldn’t have bought so many of them. It was such a boyish thing to do. - reads a bit strange. Any particular reason why the cakes seem so expensive? 

-rising anticipation of loss. - also reads a bit strange

-He did not remember seeing her in the village. Did her family even know she was here? I liked this part and the mention of the college. Made me curious of her background and the world.

I also liked the ending but found it just a tiny bit unsatisfying. The last two lines made me wonder if she could've just tried to subdue him and bleed him without needing to kill him. Her going after him and not other prey would be interesting.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. The pacing is nice and the characters are well written.

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This is a fun enjoyable story and I quite liked the ending!

 

However, I did think that it was a bit slow to get going.

I also got confused by the ogre/other monster thing. I thought she was an ogre coming for revenge and it did throw me a little to have it be otherwise. Though, it wouldn't be a bad twist if it was intentional, or more of a lampshade was hung on it, I feel like. 

One thing I noticed while reading was that some of the phrasing felt needlessly obtuse for where it appears in the text of the story. For instance, calling S "the girl" until she introduces herself, that's fine, but when J is noticing S's otherworldly nature, it's phrased as "an arm" holding "a knife" and that really threw me out of the story. We've already named S, and by that point, we've had her POV to know what the knife is. In-story, J knows whose arm he's looking at, and he can surely make a guess about whose knife it is. 

Other sections felt awkwardly long, such as "less than the moons of winter’s sky" -- evocative for sure, but I have no idea what amount of time it's supposed to convey, if it is in fact supposed to be conveying time. I feel like there's a balance to strike between wordy, elevated stylistic choices and straightforward prose for readability. Right now for me, this is a little too far into the abstruse and wordy side for me. 

With just a little bit of clean up, I think this could be really great!

 

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Well, this is a momentous occasion, reading a story from @Majestic Fox that is not The Green Ocean! I am looking forward to this immensely* :) 

Page 1 

- I'm not going to go line-by-line. Having said that, not keen on "jostling" as something laces do in the wind. I always think of jostling as something done by animate objection deliberately, under their own power.

- There's a difference between "Small wonder..." and "It was a small wonder..." - The former is one of those 'reverse' phrasings, i.e. actually means it was not surprising that she was able to follow him: it was a small wonder, not a large wonder. I didn't think that was the sense you were after, since you point out the valley was dangerous. So, really, it's a large wonder she managed to follow him.

Page 2

- "little flames had become even less" - Tense. I thought this sounded out of step with the rest, compared to 'became', because her watching him is happening now.

- "You can die of cold" - He said this already, a close variation of it, on Page 1.

- I like the exchange around the setting and maintaining of the fire. Light touch, but effective, I thought.

- "Want me to turn around?" - Slightly odd that he felt the need to ask this, I think.

Page 3

- "clenched his stomach" - Would he consciously do this, or would it not rather happen unbidden?

- "Well if you couldn’t afford to pay" - Confused. I don't understand the context of the statement. What did she pay for? Why would she? I feel like some fact, some strand of plot or setting is missing.

Page 4

- "They’re gone..." - I like how there's an ambivalent tone to this part, almost like he's confessing to something. But when he says this, with some certainty, he then produces another possible outcome, so I'm actually none the wiser whether they've gone or not.

- "a knat" - gnat.

- "the R City" - Part of the name, therefore gets CAPS. Like Manchester City, for example.

Page 5 

- I like how you end the section with questions, which draws me in, or reminds me why I'm already being drawn along. Something is up!

- I'm immediately skeptical about two POVs in such a short story, but the girl's has a lovely evocative opening, nice imagery and seductive prose, I thought. I like the idea. I'll admit I wondered if she wasn't wearing another form, but I was by no means certain.

- "small, white cylinders" - I don't quite follow. Is this a rolled up piece of paper?

Page 6

- "hep his mother" - typo.

- "trying to help her children" - This feels like completely new information. I'd rather have known that before now, and been able to pick it out myself, to recognise it.

- "brood hall’s fountain" - I don't think we've seen any of these words used in the story so far. I don't know she''s got a brood, or that there's a hall, or that there's a fountain in it. So, when you put them all together like this, it takes me three or four reads to make sense of it.

- "They had shown none to hers" - I feel like there's a lot of new information around here. It makes it hard to accept things.

- "weighed the value" - I don't buy that there is any computation to be done. I don't see that there is any balance that would deflect her from the necessary path. One less thief in the world. Do it.

Page 7

- Pretty sure shapeshifter is one word. Yep, no red squiggles.

- "around the moist air in the creature’s throat" - I don't buy this. That air must be recirculating numerous times. By the time he thinks about casting, the original air is long gone.

- "two pieces of clay into two" - This is an excellent image. Very effective description of how difficult particular skill is.

- "He released his grasp..." - That air is long gone but now, must be halfway across the room and out the door.

- "expelled from the college" - This is a nice call-back to the first mention of the college.

Page 8

- I do like the standoff between the two.

- "one boy and his mother could not hold weight" - For me, this was an obvious conclusion, snd a I struggle to accept that it took her so long to come to it.

- "spider silk in moonlight" - I can't remember what it was that smelt like this before.

Overall

I'm a bit confused at the end. What was the significance of the blood? That's not what she was looking for, was it? I didn't really get that. She goes off in search of more prey, so the blood clearly is no good in helping her out, so him leaving ends up looking kind of pointless.

There were good notes in the story, and I found it very smooth to read in general.  I just think that the story/plot is not yet quite strong enough to carry the words and the characters, and some of the scenes. it's all about developing and strengthening of course, and I believe there is a good story to be had here

Another point, I didn't really feel anything very strong or compelling for either of the characters. One was a thief, and one was largely incompetent at her mission

I enjoyed the read, but I think there are some issues that I think need to be addressed.

Thanks for sharing!! :D 

 

(* - I love TGO, I do, but I just mean it's nice to see something else!)

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Overall

Well that was lovely! GREAT tension and pacing, and just a few hiccups around POV transitions that could be smoothed out. I really enjoyed this and don't have a lot of quibbles at all. Nicely done!

On 3/27/2019 at 3:52 PM, industrialistDragon said:

One thing I noticed while reading was that some of the phrasing felt needlessly obtuse for where it appears in the text of the story. For instance, calling S "the girl" until she introduces herself, that's fine, but when J is noticing S's otherworldly nature, it's phrased as "an arm" holding "a knife" and that really threw me out of the story. We've already named S, and by that point, we've had her POV to know what the knife is. In-story, J knows whose arm he's looking at, and he can surely make a guess about whose knife it is. 

I also caught on this and think it could be streamlined

 

As I go

- I'm unclear what kind of being the not/girl is. Am I supposed to know?

- by page 8 we don't need a reminder of her name

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Thank you all. I very much appreciate it.

I'll take all that and improve the story. 

Cheers.

 

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I enjoyed reading this!

Part of me is satisfied with it as a complete story, but part of me is also left wanting to read more, imagining how these two characters could continue to interact. It did take a while for the story to actually work its way into the main conflict, so that might be part of it. I'm wondering if trimming and honing the begining somehow might make the end feel like it comes to a tighter close. 

At first, I thought this was going to be a more distant, omniscient narration because of the "a girl" opening sentence. The second one, where a named character asks a question, should have cued me that was not the case. The first time I got a sense of his voice was more "Perhaps, like him...She looked wet." This was also one of my favorite lines in the piece. 

"...his voice breaking the same way..." This made met think J was young, 12 to 14, but later when he talks about the magic college on the coast, I wonder if he is more 18 to 20. OR maybe he is in the middle? I'm not really sure. 

"...flames have become even less obedient." This is where I was more confident I was reading close third and had a more concrete grasp of J's voice. 

The sentence starting with "They had shown none to hers..." was a sentence I had to reread a few times to get.

I thought the POV shifts worked well. 

"S... had not meant to fall asleep" This confused me. Had S fallen asleep while reading? Had they laid back down to think? Did J make them fall asleep with magic?

J's action in the end was a nice touch. This was a story that left me feeling good about the world, even if it is about a completely different world. 

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