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shatteredsmooth

The Mindless Nine Part 2_Sara Codair (shatteredSmooth) (4836 words)(LVGD)

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Content Warnings: Language, Violence, Gore, Death
 
Hi All,
 
 I've cleaned up part one, added some set up, worked on voice, added more world building, and hopefully addressed many of the issues brought up last week. It's not perfect, but it's getting closer. This submission has a little overlap with part 1 since I rewrote the last two scenes from that segment. We're starting back at the dinner table. Did I make the blocking any better there? 
 
There are no more peasants fleeing from an attacked village. Does what I replaced that with work better? I did make changes in part 1 to set up for it. 
 
The random character losing an arm is also gone. What do you think of what I replaced that with? 
 
Those of you who read the original part 2 this winter will recognize some elements in this version, but there is also some brand new content that I keep second guessing. OK, I'm second guessing more than just the new content. 
 
Any feedback is welcome, but I am particularly interested in pacing, character buy-in, and blocking. I'm aware there is probably still a little too much telling. Pointing out where there is excess telling or it is absolutely critical to not tell could be helpful. 
 
 I did print this out and proof read it, but I did not spend hours upon hours adjusting and polishing every sentence and word, so it on the sentence level, it is a little rough. If you notice issues as you read, feel free to point them as it will save time later, but don't go out of your to find them and or explain them. Once I am happy with big picture stuff, and can get myself to actually see the errors, missing words and weird similes, I will know how to fix them. Simply and concisely pointing them out does helps me see them. 
 
Plus, I always feel bad if people spend too much time on grammar, but then because of other big picture comments, I end up deleting pages of text. :-/
 
Also, I didn't quite get to end, so there will be a part 3 next week.
 
 Sorry for the book of an email and the lateness. This story is kicking my butt, but I refuse to give up on it.
 
Thank you!
 
Sara
 
Last time: E is at a party, trying get close to their sister so they can protect her from potential assassins and try to seek her forgiveness. E makes some progress talking to their sister and stops a mouse drone from shooting her with a poisoned dart. 
 
This time: (after a little overlap from last time) We find out who sent those mouse bots. There is an attack, not a hit on Ulsa, but on the entire ruling family (extended relatives included).  
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As I go

- pg 1: why is auntie eating with gloves on? I don't think that's a thing

- dialogue in page 1 feels really stilted and forced and I'm sure half of that is awkward dinner party, but the other half I think is something else

- pg 2: I'm still not clear on why the sister is being assassinated. What is her position, exactly? Has she angered the people in some way?

- pg 2: 'every security bot and drone' but how many are there? I don't have enough description to get a feel for what this means, so it lands flat

- pg 3: the security cart assassins line made me giggle. The repetition on 'assassins' makes it sound like you're going for humor because the assassins are so nameless and such a vague threat

- pg 3: introduction of the M-N as a named something doesn't hold me because I don't have any background on them. Do they need to be named?

- pg 4: the sister seem a lot more cordial to each other in this version?

 

have to get my kid, will return with more tonight

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36 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 3: introduction of the M-N as a named something doesn't hold me because I don't have any background on them. Do they need to be named?

 

I was almost going to drop the name, but I added background earlier in story. I feel like if they have a name, then E has a point of reference for figuring out how to fight them. In the document with the whole story, the scene this submission opens with is on page 7. 

42 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 4: the sister seem a lot more cordial to each other in this version?

 

What I'm going for is them gradually getting more cordial as the story goes on. 

 

Thanks for the comments you made so far! :-)

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Ok sorry, resuming...

Overall

The battle and tunnels scene didn't do much for me. There isn't enough backstory by the time the action starts to figure out why I care about the sisters. Their determination to screw their country (?) over by not doing their job really doesn't endear me to them, either. I'm also sad MC didn't find magic down in the tunnels. That would have been a cool twist!

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Did I make the blocking any better there? 

I didn't trip on it so yes

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

What do you think of what I replaced that with? 

Decent. It makes more sense now for sure.

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

pacing, character buy-in, and blocking

Pacing

Reasonable, but would be better if I cared about the characters. Tension is lacking

Buy-in

Little to none. I had more in the first sub when the siblings were fighting and there was some tension

Blocking

My blocking sucks, so I think I'm the wrong person to ask about this. I tend to skim large descriptive movements.

 

Bottom line - let's have some magic, please, and some more tension.

 

As I go (pt 2)

- pg 5: the comment about magic threw me a little. Not a ton, but some

- pg 6: a bot dropped a helmet? What? I need more bot description. Why is a bot wearing a helmet? Do bots have hands? How is it carrying the helmet?

- *blink blink* wait so... this reveal that the sister wanted to pretend assassinate herself seems to come from nowhere and out of plot convenience

- pg 6: what now with the egg harvesting? That's cold

- I don;'t think this is how ruling succession works

- I have questions. Did the siblings grow up in sort of responsibility voice? MC abdicates, little sister tries to assassinate....it sounds like both of them are adept at poorly shirking responsibility more than anything, and that doesn't make them likable characters to follow

- pg 9: okay so some of the bots were the sister's but who is responsible for the rest? Still not certain why we care. I'm mostly confused here

- pg 11: wait so MC abdicated but also couldn't rule due to killing someone?? I think it had better be one or the other

- pg 12: I'm having a hard time empathizing with the flashback. It looks like E had to kill, and I haven't seen enough world to see that it has had any truly negative consequences. They didn't want to rule, so check. People still talk to them at the party, check. So what, really, did it affect?

- pg 13: still don't know what the M-N are or why they are a threat other than a nebulous 'murder bot' issue

- pg 14: wouldn't it be easier to just say cousins instead of children of mother's younger sister?

- after the magic convo I really expected them to find magic down in the tunnels and take this in a whole different direction. The searching tunnels for bots isn't engaging

- pg 14: so E had a hard time killing but isn't really phased by a dead ten year old???

- pg 15: wait how do bots not understand human speech if they are robots?? Aren't they programmed by humans?

- pg 15: this relative information needed to come a lot earlier I think

 

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Well, I had a better reaction that @kais, but I do agree with the comments, especially on the E getting the mark for a purely self-defense killing. If that's a requirement for the rulers, then they would be assassinated pretty quickly because they couldn't ever fight back without abdicating.

I wasn't particularly looking for magic in this story. Is there supposed to be? 

Overall, this reads much better than last time. E and U's motivations are a lot clearer, and I really like E's power armor. Some confusion on how the "castle" is delineated from "not castle" in regard to where the walls go up and how guests were on the other side.

I also like that the M.N. are just bots here. They have no agency, so there's the mystery of who's behind them. It gives us a good obstacle that E can fight, while trying to figure out the real motivation. It's a good separation for the problems I had last week with the M.N. vs. E and U's relationship.

 

Notes while reading:
pg 2: "“Quiet,” barked E, pulling a tiny blaster out of their sleeve."
--why are they shouting now? I'd think this would come with the raised hand earlier.

pg 3: "By the time E arrived on their sister’s heels, out of breath with their heart thundering, their team had converged on the cart, blasters ready to vaporize hostile intruders. The dented door creaked open. "
--Looking ahead, this doesn't seem to matter as much now the walls rising aren't a big obstacle. However, I'd like to see more detail on where they are and whether the gate is inside or outside where the wall rises. What's the separation between the castle and the rest of the city?

pg 4: U speaking is much more effective. I like that she's working with E in an emergency.

pg 5: "metal shield walls rose out of the ground around the castle."
--I think this is where I'm confused on the walls vs. the castle. How spread out are the guests that they need to be escorted back inside? I thought most everyone was at the dinner, at the beginning of this section.

pg 5: "bot clamped combat gauntlets on their arms"
--cool.

pg 6: “I am not dedicating my life to...politics.”
--Much better motivation for U, and why she created the first attack. As @kais says, this does need some more support, but I think that could be seeded in the first section so it doesn't drag down the tension in this section.

pg 7: "And that’s why it’s better for you to rule than me or some potential child..."
--Who is speaking here? Needs a tag.

pg 8: "E picked up an energy cannon"
--I love the combat armor.

pg 8: "A volley of no echoed all around E."
--Is this people speaking out loud and not through microphones? Needs some clarity.

pg 9: The entrance into the secret tunnel reads a lot better as well.

pg 10: "It hadn’t muffled U’s screams three years ago."
--great line.

pg 12: "fifty-kilogram teenager"
--Again, on the moon. She'd be a lot lighter.

pg 14: "the children of Mother’s youngest sister."
--Wouldn't E just think of them as their cousins?

pg 15: “Tell me when they bucket is full!” 
--which bucket? Is this some power buildup?

pg 16: "“Full” echoed from the other guards in the room"
--So they're all charging some energy bar? Needs some more explanation.


 

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4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Well, I had a better reaction that @kais,

You know, I totally forgot to write that it is much better than the last version, and I think the improvements are good! I'm just still hanging on some things. 

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, kais said:

You know, I totally forgot to write that it is much better than the last version, and I think the improvements are good! I'm just still hanging on some things. 

That's okay. You made some good points and between reading them and not looking at the story, I think I figured out how to improve it. 

20 hours ago, kais said:

- I have questions. Did the siblings grow up in sort of responsibility voice? MC abdicates, little sister tries to assassinate....it sounds like both of them are adept at poorly shirking responsibility more than anything, and that doesn't make them likable characters to follow

I'm probably going to revise to show that E did actually want to be heir and eventually ruler. It was like that in a earlier version that you all didn't see. I don't remember why I changed it. 

 

20 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 14: so E had a hard time killing but isn't really phased by a dead ten year old???

 

They are. I just failed to show the reaction. 

 

8 hours ago, Mandamon said:

especially on the E getting the mark for a purely self-defense killing. If that's a requirement for the rulers, then they would be assassinated pretty quickly because they couldn't ever fight back without abdicating.

I meant it to be harsh and very literal, which makes guards, both human and robotic, more important. 

 

8 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--Again, on the moon. She'd be a lot lighter.

 

I need to refine the gravity related pieces of world building. They're not actually on Earth's moon, but that disappeared somewhere while I was revising, and I'm not sure it really matters for the sake of this story. 

8 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I wasn't particularly looking for magic in this story. Is there supposed to be? 

 

The anthology requires there be some magic or fantasy element, but I figure there is a Goddess, marks appearing on people's arms the first time they kill, and the tech is powered by crystals that grow in a garden. To me, those three things are the magic / fantasy element, though I may need to make them clearer as I continue revising. 

Conceptually, I was thinking at least in part, the line between technology and magic could be fuzzy and ambiguous.

How much of the Goddess building castles and terraforming a moon was done with magic and how much was done with technology too forgotten for people to understand is not meant to have a definite answer. 

20 hours ago, kais said:

I'm also sad MC didn't find magic down in the tunnels.

I've thought about this on and off since I first wrote this story, but every idea I had regarding E finding some kind of magic at that point in the story felt like a Deus Ex Machina and/or contrary to what the Goddess stands for. She built castles with built in defenses, but did not leave her people with many weapons meant for offense. 

There are definitely some wrinkles to iron out and world building to sprinkle between these to sections, but I think I'm getting closer to where it needs to be. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Comments.

(Page 1)

- "to properly do all the paperwork properly" - particularly jarring splitting of the infinitive.

- This page reads smoother to me.

(Page 2)

- placing bets.

- Was Mother in the first version? I know she was mentioned, but I just don't remember her. I only remember Aunty.

- "Her cheeks turned pink" - She already blushed a couple of lines before, so they're already pink.

- "sprung up onto the long table because going around would take too long" - This is very wordy. This just became an action scene and we need a high pace, I think. I guess you need to say something so we know E's not scared of the mouse though.

- I feel like the timing's off. The mouse is small and moves really fast, but E's movements will be slower and more cumbersome as a human, so much larger. If the mouse is only at the next table that's what, 2 or 3 metres away? The time it takes for E to take a step between U and the mouse, I figure the mouse can cover at least 1m and then it's right on top of them practically. All the thinking that E does, the careful aiming. I just don't think they've got time. 

- "Some ran towards the castle" - I forget where they are. Are they in a courtyard outside? WRS. The people randomly running seems a bit odd, as they don't know where the threat is.

(Page 3)

- Similar issue with U running the other way: why?

- "through the gate" - What gate? Where? How do the people know they're running away from the unspecified danger? This is an out gate, but still in the castle complex? I think maybe there is an issue with terminology. Without me going to check it, if there is a big wall around the courtyard and a castle-type building in the middle, I think the whole within the wall would be referred to as a the castle, and the main 'castle-y' building would be the keep or castle keep. I'd need to check that myself.

- This bothered me a bit first time. it seems quite an extreme reaction of panic for a broken hover-cart, this mass panic. They all will look very silly if it's a genuine crashed hover-cart. If the reaction is down to fear of the ML9 then the problem is you haven't set up that heinous threat in the early parts to get this extreme reaction, imo.

- Things feel like they're round the wrong way. This guy J gives the warning to fall back, but everyone's already panicked and fallen back before hearing the waring.

- "as burned and sooty as R’s was" - do you mean J's?

- "They jammed our comms once they realized we’d spotted them" - This feels weak to me. They couldn't get a single warning out? If they ML9 were attacking on outpost I understand that they's jam coms as part of their surprise attack, but if the squad happen on the ML9? I think it's the phrasing 'once they realised'. That implies time between the guards knowing what's going on and the ML9 realising. That's time that a warning could be issued. I think you need to remove that gap.

(Page 4)

- "projected through all the flying [missing word?] and serving bots in the area" - The flying what? Unclear.

- Why are there guest down at the gate beside the crash? Where has U gone? She's just disappeared.

- Seems to me U mentioning the ML9 is more likely to create the panic she's trying to avoid .

- Why is E still trying to convince them? There is no indication that people are not complying. The pacing feels off to me. I'm not interested in all these faceless people they are speaking to. It's like we're only hearing one side of the conversation. They are background. I don't think this crowd thing deserves the attention it's getting. The conflict is the threat of the ML9 arriving, not a bunch of people milling around. A big part of my issue is that you already had a bunch of people flee into the keep, so why are we still dealing with people outside?

- So how does the palace relate to the castle?

(Page 5)

- "instead of heading to safety" - missing word.

- "The metal sleeves were heavy, but its internal mechanisms" - Plural / singularity disagreement.

- Too many grammar errors. Giving up LBLs at this point.

(Page 6)

- "I trying to avoid ruling, not become a dictator" - Huh?

(Page 7)

- Huh?

- I'm a bit lost. So, U arranged the mouse bots, which we only every saw one of, so they did not ever feel like any kind of threat. U was ached by E of arranging an attack by the ML9, but she didn't, is that right? But we've heard almost nothing about the ML9, other than being told how terrible they are, but without knowing why. The ML9 are given their motivations to an external source. So, who is motivating them now? Big unknown. Really, I'm not interested in a succession that nobody wants, or threats by a group of robots that has no motivations of its own, sent to attack by someone who's identify we have no idea of. Bottom line, I don't care about any of this :( 

(Page 8)

- "The three-foot cylinder" - This is in length, right?

- Hit what sucker? There is no sucker, there are two suckers.

- The countdown to shooting is redundant. They only reasonably would fire when the target is visible, or, if they can see the target, but it is out of range, then might countdown when it is in range.

- "A simultaneous volley of purple energy hit the d-bot square in the head" - What bot?! The first we hear about it is when they hit it?!

- Sorry, I'm out at this point. For me, there is too much wrong / lacking with this for me to keep reading. I had some investment in the characters before, but when the action starts, it's all over the place. The ML9 are insubstantial, there's not weight to them, not threat, no foreboding. Also, the chain of events... if I don't care what the outcome is, then why am I reading?

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I guess my first question would be—having not read the first part—is this cyberpunk plus steampunk? Blasters and holograms suggest cyberpunk, and the repeated description of the machinery having pistons implies to me that it's steampunk. Also, what kind of perspective are you trying to use here? It mostly feels like a restrained 3rd person, confined to E, but sometimes there are moments of omniscience that clash with this. 

Also, there were quite a few spelling and grammatical mistakes present. If you want, I can send you a version of the file with them highlighted. 

Here are some notes I wrote while reading.

pg. 2

-E's sudden noticing of the mouse drone is quite abrupt. I'd at least add a sentence before "E held a hand out" like "A gray blur darted out of the corner of her vision." It would make the transition between "U opened her mouth to answer" and "E held a hand out" smoother.

pg. 3

-"They darted around a cluster of young people tripping over gowns as they ran towards the castle." I do not think this is important enough to warrant being a single-sentence paragraph. I would combine it with the subsequent sentence. 

-"R rushed towards J and caught him in a hug." Unless these two know each other intimately, "caught him in his arms" might be more fitting than "hug."

-“The uniform is all that’s damaged, and the blood isn’t mine.” This comes across as stilted; I would convey this information in a different manner. Ex: Having him say, "I'm not injured," and then letting E figure out that it's not his blood. 

-"E clicked the rings on their index fingers together, projecting holographic schematics of all the bots in the area." That's a cool image, projecting holograms via rings.

pg. 4

-"“They jammed our comms once they realized we’d spotted them,” said J." If the bad guys were going to attack the good guys, why would they wait until they were spotted to jam their comms? 

-"R patted J on the back and jogged towards the castle walls.

Those injured were lead away on stretchers that had folded out of the med bots. J and the others who had been on ranger duty with him remained with E." I'd combine these into a single paragraph; again, they're not important enough on their own to warrant being their own separate paragraphs. 

-"One could only access them from the control room and a handful of panels throughout the secret tunnels and passageways." Who exactly are these tunnels and passageways secret to, if there are panels installed in them? Could you clarify this, please? 

-“This is U, the person you all came to see.” Does she really need to tell them that? 

pg. 5 and 6

-“E, none of them are responsible for the mouse drones.” U stepped forward and put a hand on E's metal-clad shoulder.

“How do you know that?” asked E. I feel like E should not be realizing U actually knows who's responsible quickly. She should be taking it as U being combative, and then U needs to hammer it home that she knows who was responsible. If that makes sense. 

pg. 6

-"U's words just didn’t make sense." But they do make sense. I think that you should emphasize that E is feeling disbelief, rather than confusion.

-"A bot dropped a helmet on their head, so U didn’t see E’s lip curl into a snarl." I feel like E is accepting this information as true way too fast. 

-"E shook their head, but it accomplished nothing." This reads awkwardly. In my opinion, "E could barely believe it" would be punchier. 

pg. 7

-The dialogue preceding "TWO HOSTILE BOTS" is in need of attribution. 

pg. 9

-"That was too easy." And too quick! A mechanical dragon swoops in on the attack, and it only gets one sentence? I feel something as cool and metal as that needs, at minimum, one paragraph. And E's sentiment on the easiness of its defeat would hit home better if you went into more detail with how the bot was destroyed.

 

-"“Are anyone’s comms working?” They shouted through their helmets microphone.

A volley of no echoed all around E." I am confused here. Is E amplifying their voice and all the guards are shouting 'no', or is E shouting into their comm mic and is only being greeted with silence?

-"Panic was ice shooting through E’s veins." I'd change this to "Icy panic shot through E's veins." 

-"E assigned half the guards to program the drones and provided coordinates for entrances to the tunnels.

“J, your three rangers, and the senior officers are coming with me to location 53.” E pointed towards a small opening in the trees at the edge of the garden and ran." I think this should be one paragraph. Also, how did E do this if the comms are out?

pg. 10

-"R skidded to a halt beside E." Huh? Where'd he come from? 

-"Their saliva slowly sank into the dirt, hitting a DNA sensor installed after a group of hostiles had infiltrated the tunnel." I feel like the history of the DNA sensor is unnecessary. 
 

pg. 11

-"“Sorry,” E said to J and the other guards.

E kept walking, hoping they’d find U, leading everyone out of the castle.

There was no sign of the N down here, but there were no fleeing survivors either, just ghosts and memories E wasn’t ready to face." I feel like this all ought to be one paragraph. 

-Your transition into the flashback is incredibly abrupt. I'd either describe it as E remembering the event (Ex: "E grit their teeth as memories of rebounding screams pierced their mind") or separate it with a paragraph break.

pg. 12

-"Grappling, punches and kicks blurred, then E got a knife between the person’s ribs." Wouldn't it be simpler to say that E stabbed the assailant in the ribs? 

pg. 17

-"R, still in his party clothes because he was just in a control tower, not engaging in combat," An instance of my confusion of the perspective. Would E really know all this info? 
  

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On 5/17/2019 at 4:57 PM, Robinski said:

The ML9 are given their motivations to an external source. So, who is motivating them now? Big unknown. Really, I'm not interested in a succession that nobody wants, or threats by a group of robots that has no motivations of its own, sent to attack by someone who's identify we have no idea of. Bottom line, I don't care about any of this

Fair enough. 

Thank for the feedback on what you did read. It will definitely help me clear things up.

I've been working on the opening again, because honestly, if there is no buy in by the end of the first few pages, there isn't going to be any later in the story. 

 

6 hours ago, JWerner said:

Also, what kind of perspective are you trying to use here? It mostly feels like a restrained 3rd person, confined to E, but sometimes there are moments of omniscience that clash with this.

It is supposed to be restrained third. I'll keep an eye out for the places where it slips. 

Thank you for all your comments! They are very helpful. :-)

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I'm sorry, I've done it again, waded in a not stressed enough the things that I enjoyed about the story. The two main characters are enjoyable, I like the tone and I like the pacing. I like the colourful almost OTT setting, although I think the tone maybe is a little off in places, but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the feel of the place, the characters. The trouble comes from the elements that aren't established, which you've got feedback on already!

I think the ML9 is a great idea and I crave for them to be so much better defined that I can buy into them with fear, awe, trepidation, etc., so that when you drop the name it resonates and makes me fear for all those people.

I would read an upgraded version of the story, I really would. No hesitation.

<R>

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6 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm sorry, I've done it again, waded in a not stressed enough the things that I enjoyed about the story. The two main characters are enjoyable, I like the tone and I like the pacing. I like the colourful almost OTT setting, although I think the tone maybe is a little off in places, but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the feel of the place, the characters. The trouble comes from the elements that aren't established, which you've got feedback on already!

I think the ML9 is a great idea and I crave for them to be so much better defined that I can buy into them with fear, awe, trepidation, etc., so that when you drop the name it resonates and makes me fear for all those people.

I would read an upgraded version of the story, I really would. No hesitation.

<R>

Thanks! 

 

 

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