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JWerner

5/20/19 - JWerner - The Scarlet Saber, Chapter 1 (~3670) (L, V, G, S)

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Posted (edited)

Hello,

This be my thread for The Scarlet Saber, my first novel. I've been working on this bugger for about three years now (not constantly) and it has proven to simultaneously be a joy and an incredible thorn in my side. I have had this thing professionally edited and read by a screenwriter, but I am most interested to hear all of your feedback, since I assume (considering whom the site is in tribute to) that most of you read fantasy. What you have is chapter 1 of my fourth-something draft.

You do not have to point out spelling or grammatical mistakes to me, as I believe I will eventually find those anyway. I'm most interested in stuff like characterization, dialogue, world-building, pacing, all that good stuff that makes a book fun. I implore you to give me your honest opinion(s), even you think my work is not up to snuff. Tell me if there's stuff you think is nonsensical or stupid. I spent too many years writing embarrassing garbage and getting next to no criticism from beta-readers, which tricked me into thinking I was a good writer when in actuality, they just didn't have the heart to tell me I stank. 

With that said, I hope you enjoy this story.

Edited by JWerner
changing the date in title
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Posted (edited)

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: For demographic information, keep in mind that I am a white male nearing his thirties, married, with two young children, and come from a background of being LDS, conservative, and with a long history of chronic depression, so these things may color what I say during review. I try to be as open-minded and unbiased as possible.

FANTASY! Now here, I feel I have some knowledge of what I'm talking about. I've read a lot of fantasy and epic fantasy, so keep in mind that my comments for this will probably a lot more detailed than in other places. As a matter of course, could you send future submissions in a word document, if just for my sake? I can't highlight bits of phrasing to pinpoint where I'm referencing in a .pdf, so I have to type them out manually by hand. It's tedious.

To begin with, let me explain my general formatting for long critiques. I have three sections: nitpicks, inconsistencies/concerns, and problems. Nitpicks are things where I have a broader knowledge than the average reader, and so I am writing about it because of either a common misconception, or that there's something off about the way a specific thing reads to me. Inconsistencies and concerns have largely to do with content, whether or not something seems out of character, falls into a common bad fantasy mistake, or any number of general errors. Problems are things that I feel need to be reworked.

Second, I have done a lot of research into medieval arms and armor because the book I'm writing is high/post-medieval epic fantasy. So I will be a lot more detailed in this regard because knowledge is power--and there's a lot of misinformation with regards to medieval arms and armor.

Nitpicks:

Spoiler

Pg 1: Longsword. Oookay. First nitpick--we have to be careful when talking about medieval swords--the classic fantasy longsword isn't actually a longsword, it's an arming sword, and it's usually worn at the hip, not on the back. It's perfectly suitable to simply call it a sword, if you're not overly familiar with sword terminology. The arming sword is a one-handed side sword, whereas a longsword generally applies to a longer bladed sword that is generally used two-handed--the fantasy concept of the greatsword is actually a longsword.

Second nitpick: drawing from the back using a ring to hold the sword is a very unrealistic. Not only would this dull the blade as it rubs against the metal ring, but 1) it'd be very difficult to re"sheathe" (how would you get the sword back into the ring?)--especially since it's revealed later that she only has one arm, 2) a ring offers absolutely zero protection for the blade. This sword would be exposed to the elements constantly--and that means rust and dulling, which are absolutely fatal to a swords efficacy in combat.

Inconsistencies/Concerns:

Spoiler

Page 1:

The Epigraph - The epigraph concerns me. Immediately, before we've even been introduced to the world, you throw two made-up words at us without any kind of explanation of what these are. The first one immediately throws me out of the story because I have no idea what the Fer are. I know that you're probably going to reveal this over the course of the story, but even in-world, the people will have a slang name for whatever these are--it might be better to use that at the beginning, then introduce us formally later. I assume the second is a city?

You go a little overboard in your descriptions:

Spoiler

"the uneven path made by two loose lines of flanking cobblestones, her leather boots crunching against the dark grain"  << is basically the same as saying "the uneven path between two lines of cobblestones". The dark grain bit is unclear--is this a dark sand, gravel, or dirt? You told us very prettily that the path is flanked by cobblestones, but didn't actually tell us what the path was.

"the longsword sheathed in a metal hoop bolted diagonally into the upper back of her armor, right between her shoulder blades." << This level of detail is completely unnecessary and wordy. Just say "the sword strapped to her back by a metal ring." -- which I've gone into the impracticality of in the nitpick section.

"she tensed her one remaining arm" << This makes the ring even more impractical.

"The empty, tattered left sleeve of her the shift she wore beneath her chest-plate" << She's wearing underclothes directly beneath her armor? A shift is a type of underdress, meant to go underneath a formal dress, robe, or gown. The armor would also typically be put over top of that outer layer, if she were still in a dress, though I'd assume she'd also wear a padded coat or doublet at the very least--a simple breastplate would never have been strapped directly over simple clothing, much less underclothes.

"chest-plate" << should be breastplate.

Page 2:

My first thought on this second page is to groan. Packs of men raping women--even female warriors--on sight is such an overdone and tiresome fantasy trope. There are other ways to show depravity then to put your female characters in such a situation.

The second paragraph does a lot of telling. I'd rather you show us what "staring at her with lust in their fixed, bloodshot eyes" looks like--it will help us get into L's mindset here.

"bloodshot eyes, but the largest one that L assumed was the leader, a giant..." << "bloodshot eyes. The largest one--L assumed that was the leader--was a giant..."

"L had a flash of Slone," << huh?

Separate your paragraphs when you have a separate focus. For example,

Quote

 

"Nice sword, girlie," said the smallest. He held the butcher's knife, along with a rusted dagger in the other hand. "Wanna give it here?"

L glowered at him, stepping to the side and pointing down the road towards the empty horizon--their final warning to leave.

The butcher giggled, like he'd been told a dirty joke. "Can we kill her, boss?"

 

This gives us a better insight into who is doing what, rather than a large paragraph that is constantly shifting focus.

Page 3:

I'm confused, which one is the one with the knuckledusters? Oh, right, the giant she thought was the leader. When you establish a defining feature (she comments three or four times that he's 'the big one', 'the largest', 'a giant', etc), don't then use a completely different feature to refer to him. It's inconsistent, and confuses the reader.

"the gang boss" << just say boss, since that's how you referred to him initially.

"poopy-face" << seems to be out of context with the rest of your prose. I'd recommend a different moniker.

"assumed her favored form of  Exilsaber, putting her right boot forward and planting the other behind her, toes pointed leftward, all the while balancing on the balls of her feet. The familiar footwork of a fencer's stance combined with the nimbleness required of a mercenary." << Hoohh boy. This is hard to read. Again, too much insignificant detail. Also, which hand is missing? If it's her left hand, great, but if it's her right hand, then her form is incorrect because she's cross-dominant. My recommendation would be to cut out the extraneous detail and simply state that she's settling into her favored form.

Page 4:

"her plate only protected her from collarbone to navel" << Why? If she's a mercenary who fights for a living, why does she only protect her chest??

"L parried his blade with the flat of her own and nicked the artery right below his jaw" << WOW. That's some amazing precision, considering she's using a longsword. Why would she aim to nick an artery, when she's got a sword that could deal a lot more damage by cutting across his throat, and with significantly more reach? Why wait until he's right up on her to attack? That seems silly.

"She dragged the ridge of her blade along the length of his throat as he passed." << He's unarmored. Why not go for the bigger target across the middle and disembowel the fellow? Much easier. Also, ridge? You mean the edge, right? Because a ridge implies she's using the edge of a fuller to cut his throat which is...weird.

"She gasped as she felt a searing pain down the back of her thigh. She lashed out behind her with the other foot in response and buried it in the solar plexus..." << Ookay. So she just got stabbed or slashed in the back of the thigh and then put her full weight on that injured leg? How did she not collapse here? Then just a little later she twists and kicks again without falling over? Getting stabbed hurts, it tears muscles that are designed to work together. She should have some problems arise because of this.

Page 5:

Boxer? Does boxing exist in this world? And is this supposed to imply the brawler/young man with the knuckledusters?

"The stake poking out of the small of his back" << That's a long stake!

"quick thrust through the back of his throat." << Again, they're all unarmored. Why aim for such a small target? If you keep this, however, change throat to neck.

"It was all over." << Did she forget about the giant that quickly, or does she not count him as a threat? If she doesn't, why?

"She traced her thumb over the leather pommel of her sword" << Sword pommels were never made of leather. They were thick pieces of metal meant to counter-balance the weight of the blade. What you probably mean is the grip or haft--the part she holds onto.

Page 6:

"her neck around as much as her gorget could afford her << She's wearing a gorget but not any other plate besides the breastplate? What? Why?

"Said he'd cut me up if I tried to leave." << Ahh, okay. That makes more sense why he's so timid.

Page 7:

Why are you italicizing all of L's dialogue? Unless she's emphasizing every sentence, it's unnecessary.

"waste-landers" << wastelanders. Hyphen is unnecessary because a wasteland is a legitimate type of biome/terrain.

"L needed a lead; she had already checked all five towns that made up the Star. Now, a lead was anywhere else with people. Anything that would help her find a port. Anything that would get her home." << There's something funny about your punctuation here. I can't pin it down exactly, but you basically have a list separated by periods, which is weird.

"The Coz" << What the heck are the Coz?

Page 8:

"Fighting to stand on a leg that was doing its best to bring her to her knees" << I'm surprised it took that long.

Page 9:

This italicizing dialogue, combined with your paragraph structure, is making this difficult to read from a visual standpoint.

"Her sword dug into the sand as she leaned on it like a makeshift cane--she was careful to avoid digging the blade into whatever little road there was to avoid blunting the sword." << This is a common misconception with swords--the effectiveness is in the blade, not the point. Swords are primarily slashing and chopping weapons, and though there are swords out there designed with a full taper to make stabbing more viable and effective, their use is primarily in sliding the blade across something or chopping into something. Thus, the point getting dulled is worrisome, but wouldn't mean the entire sword being blunted. The weather it's been exposed to, however, is a much bigger problem.

Problems:

Spoiler

Okay.

The first thing that you need to work on is that your combat is extremely dull. I get what you're trying to do, because I've run into the same problems myself before, but you spend too much time trying to show us what the combat looks like, that instead of showing, you're actually telling. Showing the combat would give us less specific combat detail, and more insight into the character's perspective. Fighting is an adrenaline rush, it's action and reaction. Focus on the character's thoughts, on their perceptions, on their feelings. Spend less time telling us what she's doing and how she's doing it, and more time showing us how she feels--even if she's a dead inside, cold-hearted warrior, you can show us that. As readers, we don't care as much about the mechanics of the fight as we do about the fight itself, and more importantly, its ramifications.

Second, your main character is an cremhole. And I mean that kindly. The only emotion I can find in the entire section you've submitted that isn't jerkish, is when she feels a pang of guilt over being about to kill the boy (boxer/giant/knuckleduster guy), and even then, she's about to murder the kid. This could be alleviated by just spending more time in her head. You tell a lot of what her body is feeling, but you convey almost no emotions throughout the section. There's very little here for me to empathize with, connect with, or otherwise love.

Third, your dialogue. It looks to me like you are italicizing L's dialogue to easier distinguish who is talking, so that you don't get caught up in the "he said, she said" banality. Avoiding that problem is great--unfortunately, the italics make reading that dialogue very jarring. Italics are generally used in literature for two things: internal thoughts or flashbacks (to differentiate the text from the main body), and emphasis.

If I were to always talk like this, and everything I said was emphasized like this, how does that make me come across?

You could easily distinguish by including something you use very little of in dialogue--body language. We almost never, as people, carry on through entire conversations without reacting to what is being said--and this is part of that whole "showing versus telling" business I mentioned before.

Finally, be careful of in-world terms. You have to explain things, or else your reader is going to be utterly lost. I could tell you that I spent the last three days running from Hjorlingers and trying to find the Gruz, but if I never tell you what those are, then how are you ever going to know? A good rule of thumb, is if you refer to something by name only once, then you either need to explain it or use a different word until you can explain it. For example, the Coz. What the heck are the Coz? Are they the political leaders of an area? Some people she'd ran afoul of and forced to do penance for? Gods/deities?

Whew. Okay. To summarize, you fall into a lot of standard indie-fantasy problems. These are things that can be fixed, but will require some more work on your part. It's great that you've had your piece professionally edited...but you probably should have waited for that until closer to the publication process. As it stands, its a very generic fantasy, erring on trying to be grimdark. There isn't anything that grips me into the story--it's just a one-armed girl walking down a road and then slaughtering a bunch of guys while trying to find a town. I don't know anything about your world yet, other than there's a city (I think?) called F-something and something called the Star, that is constantly plagued by marauders who like to rape women on sight.

There are the seeds of things here that could be interesting, so I'm interested to see where it goes from that standpoint, but as of right now, there's not enough for me to really buy into anything presented.

I'm sorry if this comes across as harsh--know that it comes from a place of love and desire to see this become the best it can be. I love fantasy, and I'm always interested in walking the worlds created by others. Thanks for submitting this to everyone. :)

Edited by Alderant
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Posted (edited)

Holy mother, constructive feedback! Finally! You have no idea how long I've waited for someone to tell me straight that my writing is flawed. In all my years of creative writing, I seriously have never gotten a critique this extensive and in-depth. Not once. It's a breath of fresh air. 

I'll take all your feedback into account and use it to improve the excerpt, as well as keeping everything you've said in mind for future editing on the rest of the draft. It's all extremely helpful. I knew that the work wasn't exactly up to snuff, but it's great to finally get an outside perspective on why.

I'm not sure if it's bad form to respond to criticism, so I ask: Is it all right if I say something about your point on the italics? 

 

Edited by JWerner
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46 minutes ago, JWerner said:

I'm not sure if it's bad form to respond to criticism, so I ask: Is it all right if I say something about your point on the italics? 

Not bad form at all. Go ahead. Glad my comments so far have helped.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

Not bad form at all. Go ahead. Glad my comments so far have helped.

Basically, I'll just ask you to consider this line from paragraph four of the second scene:

Spoiler

His gaze was averted; she didn’t have to put as much effort into ‘speaking.’

 

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18 minutes ago, JWerner said:

Basically, I'll just ask you to consider this line from paragraph four of the second scene:

  Hide contents

His gaze was averted; she didn’t have to put as much effort into ‘speaking.’

 

To be honest, that line made no sense to me. Why are we 'quoting' the words speaking and screaming? I assumed this line meant it was easier to speak to the boy than work up the energy to keep threatening him, because that's exactly what the line says preceding it, and he gives us no indication that she's doing anything weird. It's not clear what you're trying to go for--clearly you're trying to go for something, but it's beyond my ability to understand given what's here. If it's because the native language is different from her own--well, there are ways that are less clunky and confusing that we can convey that. If it's because she's whispering, that can be accomplished through dialogue cues.

Am I making any sense?

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Posted (edited)

10 minutes ago, Alderant said:

To be honest, that line made no sense to me. Why are we 'quoting' the words speaking and screaming? I assumed this line meant it was easier to speak to the boy than work up the energy to keep threatening him, because that's exactly what the line says preceding it, and he gives us no indication that she's doing anything weird. It's not clear what you're trying to go for--clearly you're trying to go for something, but it's beyond my ability to understand given what's here. If it's because the native language is different from her own--well, there are ways that are less clunky and confusing that we can convey that. If it's because she's whispering, that can be accomplished through dialogue cues.

Am I making any sense?

Well, it's really supposed to imply something and leave you in confusion, at least for the time being. Though I guess I can't really explain without spoiling stuff.

If you're willing to keep reading, I promise it will be explained. Until then, I'll just go back to editing. I'm just trying to decide now on sending an edited version of the same chapter for next week, or chapter 2 (while still factoring in your feedback).

 

Edited by JWerner
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Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, JWerner said:

Well, it's really supposed to imply something and leave you in confusion, at least for the time being.

I'll be a little more blunt without actually spoiling the story:

  Hide contents

The fact that her dialogue is in italics actually factors into the plot and is not just for convenience.

 

1

If this is the case, this might actually be a case where you're being too subtle or trying to be too clever. Leaving your reader in confusion--while it sounds neat--is never actually a good thing. You want them to ask questions, to wonder what's going on, but never be left in a state of confusion. Confusion makes the reader feel like the revelations come out of left field, and like they're too stupid to understand what's going on--which is never something you want your reader to feel.

IF her dialogue being different is important to the plot, there are better ways to communicate this to the reader without confusing them with weird conventions--because that's really what it is, at its core. Unless you want me to believe that people in-world speak in italics, like Beatrice speaks in red and blue in Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, you're going to have to find a more creative way to portray this that the reader can understand--or even gloss over and discover it was significant later (a key plot twist device). Without knowing more about your world, however, there's nothing for me to be clued in on with regards to why you're using this convention. It's sudden, it's out of place, and though you may know it means something, as a reader I wouldn't even know to ask "is her speaking in italics significant in-world?" because I have no information to go off of.

Basically, to phrase this another way, you're accidentally revealing the author. Because there is nothing in-world to justify the difference between their lines, apart from two words being arbitrarily 'quoted', it comes off as an authorial convention, rather than an in-world quirk. And there are few things as immersion-breaking in a fantasy novel, as being made aware of the author.

ADDENDUM: If you want a good example of an author using a subtle clue about dialogue cues to reveal a key plot point later, Brandon Sanderson's Shadows of Self does this marvelously. I can't tell you how without massive spoilers, but I'd recommend it if you haven't read it.

Edited by Alderant
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5 minutes ago, Alderant said:

If this is the case, this might actually be a case where you're being too subtle or trying to be too clever. Leaving your reader in confusion--while it sounds neat--is never actually a good thing. You want them to ask questions, to wonder what's going on, but never be left in a state of confusion. Confusion makes the reader feel like the revelations come out of left field, and like they're too stupid to understand what's going on--which is never something you want your reader to feel.

IF her dialogue being different is important to the plot, there are better ways to communicate this to the reader without confusing them with weird conventions--because that's really what it is, at its core. Unless you want me to believe that people in-world speak in italics, like Beatrice speaks in red and blue in Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, you're going to have to find a more creative way to portray this that the reader can understand--or even gloss over and discover it was significant later (a key plot twist device). Without knowing more about your world, however, there's nothing for me to be clued in on with regards to why you're using this convention. It's sudden, it's out of place, and though you may know it means something, as a reader I wouldn't even know to ask "is her speaking in italics significant in-world?" because I have no information to go off of.

Basically, to phrase this another way, you're accidentally revealing the author. Because there is nothing in-world to justify the difference between their lines, apart from two words being arbitrarily 'quoted', it comes off as an authorial convention, rather than an in-world quirk. And there are few things as immersion-breaking in a fantasy novel, as being made aware of the author.

ADDENDUM: If you want a good example of an author using a subtle clue about dialogue cues to reveal a key plot point later, Brandon Sanderson's Shadows of Self does this marvelously. I can't tell you how without massive spoilers, but I'd recommend it if you haven't read it.

Well, bugger. That's definitely unfortunate. In the older drafts, I explained WHY and HOW right off the bat, but I thought it would be more fun and create intrigue to create this mystery. It does clue you in that it's a mystery around chapter 3 or so,

Spoiler

when viewpoints hop between characters (via paragraph breaks) and L's dialogue is still italicized, but only when it's her POV, in order to establish that there's something particular about the way she speaks, but nobody else can tell.

I suppose I could amend this by un-italicizing, and leaving the aforementioned line with 'speaking' in apostrophes intact to convey that something is up, but leave it brief enough so that the reader can gloss over it. Would you say that still has the effect of revealing the author? Truthfully, the idea of going through the whole manuscript to un-italicize the dialogue makes me shudder. I already had to do that once; in the old drafts, not only was it italicized, it was bolded and there were no quotation marks. Yeah, I don't know why I thought it was a good idea either. I am also concerned over diminishing a certain moment in the story that hinges on the reader's understanding that something is up about L's dialogue.

As for Shadows of Self, I've read it (I've read all officially-published Cosmere), but it's been a few months, so I'm not 100% on what you're referring to. Would it happen to be something kandra-related? 

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As for Shadows of Self, I've read it (I've read all officially-published Cosmere), but it's been a few months, so I'm not 100% on what you're referring to. Would it happen to be something kandra-related? 

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Yes.

19 minutes ago, JWerner said:

Well, bugger. That's definitely unfortunate. In the older drafts, I explained WHY and HOW right off the bat, but I thought it would be more fun and create intrigue to create this mystery. It does clue you in that it's a mystery around chapter 3 or so,

  Reveal hidden contents

when viewpoints hop between characters (via paragraph breaks) and L's dialogue is still italicized, but only when it's her POV, in order to establish that there's something particular about the way she speaks, but nobody else can tell.

I suppose I could amend this by un-italicizing, and leaving the aforementioned line with 'speaking' in apostrophes intact to convey that something is up, but leave it brief enough so that the reader can gloss over it. Would you say that still has the effect of revealing the author? Truthfully, the idea of going through the whole manuscript to un-italicize the dialogue makes me shudder. I already had to do that once; in the old drafts, not only was it italicized, it was bolded and there were no quotation marks. Yeah, I don't know why I thought it was a good idea either. I am also concerned over diminishing a certain moment in the story that hinges on the reader's understanding that something is up about L's dialogue.

 

I know, going back through the entire manuscript like that would set my teeth on edge too. This is why good beta feedback is important (and I'm so sorry that I'm the first good feedback you've had. I'm definitely not the best in that regard.) Generally speaking, what it seems to me that you're really looking for is a defining characteristic to differentiate how L speaks, compared to everyone else. Comparatively, something that might make more sense is if you were to italicize her speaking when it's not her viewpoint, but leave it normal when it was hers. That'd be a more attention-grabbing reveal, that she's speaking differently--because no one really thinks that they speak differently.

As for your first lines here, keep in mind that you don't have to explain fully why or how she is speaking differently right off the bat--you can give subtle clues, careful comments like "she kept her jaw rigid, making the words come out slurred" or "even though she wanted to scream and yell, she kept her voice a whisper" (I have no idea what your system is for why she speaks differently, just throwing out examples off the top of my head). The fun of clues comes in their repeated use, in drawing a line through the breadcrumbs you've laid throughout the novel. Instead of "why is this character always italicized?", the reader asks "why is this character always slurring. Is her jaw broken?" Or "why does she always whisper?" The key difference here is that the reader is now asking a question about the character, and not about the mechanical convention used. Then, later on down the road you can reveal that she keeps her words slurred because when people hear her full pronunciation, there's magical weight to her words, or that she always whispers because when she speaks normally (or shouts), the weather does crazy stuff! Make sense?

Then there's also the concept of misdirection, which I hinted at in the first paragraph--by making it seem like there's nothing wrong with how she speaks (and including subtle reactions from the people she speaks to), you can allow the reader to gloss over the detail, but have something concrete they can come back to, to say "Oh, how did I not see that!" Basically, you have to choose how you want this plot point to be revealed and then sow your seeds early on for a big payoff later.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, Alderant said:

As for your first lines here, keep in mind that you don't have to explain fully why or how she is speaking differently right off the bat--you can give subtle clues, careful comments like "she kept her jaw rigid, making the words come out slurred" or "even though she wanted to scream and yell, she kept her voice a whisper" (I have no idea what your system is for why she speaks differently, just throwing out examples off the top of my head). The fun of clues comes in their repeated use, in drawing a line through the breadcrumbs you've laid throughout the novel. Instead of "why is this character always italicized?", the reader asks "why is this character always slurring. Is her jaw broken?" Or "why does she always whisper?" The key difference here is that the reader is now asking a question about the character, and not about the mechanical convention used. Then, later on down the road you can reveal that she keeps her words slurred because when people hear her full pronunciation, there's magical weight to her words, or that she always whispers because when she speaks normally (or shouts), the weather does crazy stuff! Make sense?

Then there's also the concept of misdirection, which I hinted at in the first paragraph--by making it seem like there's nothing wrong with how she speaks (and including subtle reactions from the people she speaks to), you can allow the reader to gloss over the detail, but have something concrete they can come back to, to say "Oh, how did I not see that!" Basically, you have to choose how you want this plot point to be revealed and then sow your seeds early on for a big payoff later.

If you don't mind being spoiled, I can just PM you an explanation; it doesn't ruin the whole book or the like. Though there is a chance you will find my explanation to be completely ridiculous. You'll at least see where I'm coming from, though.

Edited by JWerner
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Posted (edited)

13 minutes ago, JWerner said:

If you don't mind being spoiled, I can just PM you an explanation; it doesn't ruin the whole book or the like. Though there is a chance you will find my explanation to be completely ridiculous. You'll at least see where I'm coming from, though.

Id rather see how your story develops--that might give us a better idea of what youre trying to do. Remember, we're here for feedback--if you have to explain it to us at this stage, then its not going to carry over well into the final draft. :) 

Rather, work it in in a revision. Id wager nearly everyone here has resubmitted to fix errors before, so you dont need to feel bashful about going back and digging in. I love fantasy, so Ill gladly reread if necessary, and also remember that Im only one person--there are many others who havent replied yet that might be able to give you a different vantage. Keep at it. 

Edited by Alderant
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Posted (edited)

Projecting lots of confidence, aren't I?

Welp, all right then. I'll do my best to improve it and the rest. In the meantime, I will get to critiquing others' work, as they are owed.

Edited by JWerner
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Hello and welcome to Reading Excuses!

I see @Alderant has already given this a good going-over, but I'm happy to see you can take criticism well and are making improvements. I'll add in my two cents:

Overall, I actually like the theme of this book so far. There are pretty standard fantasy tropes, but those are easy to subvert, if you do it right. What I do like is that this seems to be a fantasy kingdom meets Mad Max adventure and I am totally there for that, especially if one place has magic and the other has tech.

21 hours ago, Alderant said:

It's great that you've had your piece professionally edited...but you probably should have waited for that until closer to the publication process.

Totally agree. Quite honestly, this is not in a state where professionally editing is going to help. You seem to have had a lot of unhelpful beta readers, so hopefully we can make up the difference and give you some better feedback.

12 hours ago, JWerner said:

Truthfully, the idea of going through the whole manuscript to un-italicize the dialogue makes me shudder.

There are some power-user tricks in Word to find and automatically convert italics, so yes, this will be time consuming, but maybe not as bad as you think, You could search for some combination of quotation marks followed by italicization, for example.

But on this subject, yes, it is incredibly confusing. I've made some comments about it in my notes, but I would definitely change this back to regular text. There are also conflicting explanations, like she's speaking, but not speaking, and something else is involved? If this is big a plot point, just tell us what's going on, or at least have P comment on it so L can explain it.

21 hours ago, Alderant said:

There isn't anything that grips me into the story--it's just a one-armed girl walking down a road and then slaughtering a bunch of guys while trying to find a town.

Like I said, I enjoy the mad max meets fantasyland aspect of this, but @Alderant is correct that there's not a lot to grab you at the beginning. I also mention this in my notes, but starting with a fight scene is not actually a very good way of introducing someone. We don't know anything about L, except that she's willing to slaughter a band of obviously inept bandits. She's not really likable, and I am much more interested in P's story, who has the gumption, while being confronted by a fierce one-armed warrior, to escape the bandits who forced him into their gang in order to learn more about the world!

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "write this account to you"
--so I guess a captive, but with writing privileges...

pg 1: "She tensed her one remaining arm whilst wiggling her fingers, readying her hand to snap back and draw her sword."
--It's better to relax before moving quickly than tensing. Tensing makes you move slower. Also, "one remaining arm" sounds like she might have had more than two in the past?

pg 1: "The empty, tattered left sleeve of her the shift"
--ah, you can actually get rid of the whole "one remaining arm" phrase because this sentence *shows* that she's only got one arm, after you've *told* us that.

pg 2: "shirtless and tattooed in wild, intricate patterns"
--is this an indicator of marauder-ship, then? Maybe they're just local tattoo enthusiasts! ;-)

pg 2: “Can we kill her boss?”
--needs a comma, unless they're talking about L's employer...

pg 3: I feel a fight scene coming on...honestly, with all this posturing, she could have walked away by now.

pg 4: hmmm. I love a good fight scene, and this one is well choreographed, but coming so soon to the beginning of the book doesn't let us know the participant well enough, especially since this one is rather gory. L might just be a psychotic murderer and purposefully walked into this trap. We already know at least one of the gang doesn't stand a chance, so the big guy with the knuckledusters is actually more sympathetic than L at this point. It doesn't matter how good she is, if we're not already rooting for her.

pg 5: "alongside the other two, faded scratches...reminders of how many corpses she’d made"
--so she's only killed two others? That seems unlikely, considering what she just did.

pg 6: "she looked to the last remaining marauder"
--wait, there's someone left? And she's doing post-battle checks?
--ah, it's the big guy. Might have her notice in the fight that he'd surrendered.

pg 6: Wait, why is she talking in italics? is she psychic?

pg 9: "One s."
--except he just "said" it with two?

pg 9: "afraid of even looking at it, like it would make the injury more real"
--If she's a seasoned fighter, I would think she'd be adept at taking care of wounds until she got proper treatment--seeing as she's still alive.

pg 11: "keep herself from ‘screaming.’"
--ok, very confused. She references saying things out loud, but talks in italics. Is there something weird with how she speaks? If so, why hasn't P noted it?

pg 14: At this point, I'm almost convinced this is a prologue and this is P's story, not L's.

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Welcome to RE, and congratulations on your first sub! Standard warnings apply- we love newbies and no one on here is out to be mean. We want to be helpful and constructive, as most people on the board have dreams of Big Five publishing, and hard critique is how to get there. So welcome to the journey!

Overall

Fairly generic fantasy setting, with buy-in coming a touch too late. P really really got my dander up there towards the end, enough so that I would put this book down in a bookstore. He acts contrary to anyone who wants to keep living, and I dislike his growing forwardness and L's frailty being levied against each other to show a powerful woman making bad choices to prop up emotions for a man. 

On 5/20/2019 at 10:08 AM, Alderant said:

Packs of men raping women--even female warriors--on sight is such an overdone and tiresome fantasy trope. There are other ways to show depravity then to put your female characters in such a situation.

Agree. Hard agree.

On 5/20/2019 at 10:08 AM, Alderant said:

You tell a lot of what her body is feeling, but you convey almost no emotions throughout the section. There's very little here for me to empathize with, connect with, or otherwise love.

Another agree. I dislike her because I don't know her, and she's a warrior woman in a standard European fantasy. This is one of my favorite tropes. I should be in love with her.

15 hours ago, JWerner said:

Well, it's really supposed to imply something and leave you in confusion, at least for the time being. Though I guess I can't really explain without spoiling stuff.

The issue is that, in this chapter, we the reader are functionally P. So if he doesn't react to telepathy or whatever, then we don't, either. So the reader is left to assume she is doing nothing out of the ordinary, which makes the italics really weird.

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

At this point, I'm almost convinced this is a prologue and this is P's story, not L's

This was exactly my thought

 

As I go

- the starting letter is written more like dialogue than a formal correspondence to a general. It immediately makes me step back from the narrative 

- 'dark grain' makes me think wood, not cobblestone

- pg 1: we're getting a lot of description of L, which is good and I like it. Going down to the shift level though, I'd like to see an additional mention of undergarments or not. Ignoring them sends a concerning signal about not understanding how armor and female bodies work. A simple fix would be something like 'tight shift', or you could mention a wrap underneath, or really anything that showcases the author knows she has something under there that needs support or indicating that no support is needed because small breasts, trans woman, whatever.

- would suggest giving L some haircolor and skin tone descriptors early. As the marauders come in you've got them described basically as Dothraki, complete with dark racial coding, which is problematic. So we either need to change their hair color or show that they aren't the only darker people in the narrative

- lol with the poppy face

- pg 7: confused with the italics. Telepathy? Needs to be established in world earlier, and we need a better reaction from P

- the marauders are really vague and tropey. May or may not be an issue, just flagging it for later

- pg 9: I care more about P than L at this stage. He has more character and backstory than her already. Is this his story, or hers?

- pg 10: this is the first time we get a note about the motivation of L, and it comes far too late. That through line, or at the very least first arc plot, should be established in the first few pages. I don't know if you are gunning for eventual publication or not. If not, carry on and write what you love. If you are looking at publication, know that you'll get five pages, tops, to hook an agent, and editor, a reader, and through lines are something they generally want to see. Some sense of purpose and buy-in and why are we here and why do we care. I care more about L now knowing she needs medicine. I care a great deal about P because he was forced in Generic Gang no. 7. But I think this could have been established all in the first page, keeping tension high and the narrative moving forward.

- pg 12: weird change here. He begged to come along, she relented. She fell and now he is acting like she owes him something for... almost offering her a hand up? Showing her to C Point? She didn't want him there to begin with and didn't stab him out of mercy. P is being really forward and if I were L, I'd run him through right now. His entitlement is showing

- pg 13: P is really irritating and obnoxious. I don't know what value he has. Why hasn't she killed him yet?

- pg 13: "let me carry you." Seriously? No. I want to jump into the story and take his head off myself. He comes across as so entitled it hurts. How about offering her a shoulder, or he finds a sturdy stick? She holds his life in her hands, why is he being so forward?

 

 

 

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Whoo. I should not have read this at work.

I will totally own up to all the shortcomings you three have listed and will resolve to improve. I think for next week, if I can get a slot on the list, I will send in a revised version of this chapter that incorporates as much of the listed feedback as possible. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you all to bear with me on the italics. When the eventual reveal comes and if you all still feel the same way on that issue, I'm totally open to revising that too. That being said, thank you all for your feedback! I think I needed a good kick in the teeth. 

@Mandamon Mad Max + Infinity Blade was pretty much what I had in mind when I started writing. As for having lots of unhelpful beta feedback, I've had very little feedback at all. Only two people have been willing to read the whole thing start to finish, and one of them was my editor. 

@kais Thank you especially on your feedback on my characters; I'd feel awful if other readers despised them. I'll be paying extra attention their characterizations in my revisions.

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40 minutes ago, JWerner said:

I will send in a revised version of this chapter that incorporates as much of the listed feedback as possible.

This current thing I'm putting through, I sent the first chapter through three or four times before moving on. It's hard, but it is so, so worth it. 
Remember too that you don't have to agree with everything we say. These are just reactions and suggestions. In the end it is your story. You decide what works, what doesn't, what you keep, and what gets rewritten. 

It's hard at first, being on the board, but we're a good community of people who really care about each other. We're really glad to have you here, and hope to see more of this fantasy!

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22 hours ago, JWerner said:

Whoo. I should not have read this at work.

I will totally own up to all the shortcomings you three have listed and will resolve to improve. I think for next week, if I can get a slot on the list, I will send in a revised version of this chapter that incorporates as much of the listed feedback as possible. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you all to bear with me on the italics. When the eventual reveal comes and if you all still feel the same way on that issue, I'm totally open to revising that too. That being said, thank you all for your feedback! I think I needed a good kick in the teeth.

Hahaha, don't stress so much about how hard this might be. I put through my first submission back in January, and had my teeth kicked pretty hard with some things I hadn't thought of at all. That ended up actually being a good thing for me though, because it forced me to really go back and dig into what and how I wanted this story to go, and I'm finding what I have now is leagues above what I thought I had before. It'll get better. :)

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Posted (edited)

These is my blind critique before reading anything from you or any of the comments on your thread so apologies if some of this stuff was already covered.

ONE

I don’t like her name. I’m from the Southwest and it’s distracting because I immediately think of the Spanish pronoun.

If she only sees the five people on the horizon because of the flash how does she see them moving closer after the flash? I’m not really experiencing the setting.

TWO

You describe the people as being on the horizon moving slowly but they are upon her in just a few minutes. Logistical issue? Tiny planet?

THREE

The fact that the boy a ) doesn’t attack her and b ) D doesn’t gut him for it takes some of the suspense out of the scene. I already know at this point that no matter what happens she is about to win this fight, but I want to feel some sort of immediate danger.

FIVE

The logistics of the fight are a bit confusing. I had to read it twice and even then it felt overly verbose, which is saying something since it’s not that long.

“All the while she examined them. Studied them, evaluating which of them presented the biggest threat.”

The fight would feel more immediate if instead evaluating them in the moment, she already knows exactly who is the biggest threat. It would help play up how big of a badass she is, which I think is what you are going for.

Does the two scratches mean she only killed two people since her first campaign?

SIX

Does she know battlefield medicine? Is medicine rare? Why doesn’t she wrap the wound? Even a common soldier should know that.

SEVEN

Why is her dialogue italicized?

EIGHT

I don’t know her very well, but it seems a little OOC. I just don’t see her lowering her weapon unconsciously. The fact that "P" is alive at all is enough reason to think she doesn’t actively want to kill anyone.

NINE

Okay, I’m seeing she might be poisoned or something from the injury and possibly not fully in control of her faculties so that explains her lowering her weapon.

Overall I felt this was a strong opening. I feel like a I don’t know the character very well but I know her just enough to keep me reading, which is perfect. Opening with action is good. She has at least one clear motivation/goal (to get home). Solid.

TEN
Does her sword not have a scabbard?

Why hasn’t she thought about being poisoned? Is the wound just much worse than I think? Is her species particularly weak to injury?

THIRTEEN
I like their dialogue. Or rather I like the placement of the dialogue. It needs to be tightened up a bit to either make it sound more or less like banter (not sure which you’re going for) but it’s the right spot for it. Shows their differences in personality and upbringing. It’s a little weird he doesn’t know what a million is but knows what multiplication is.

He’s annoying, though, and I think she humors him, which is something my little experience with the character tells me she wouldn’t do. Is she lonely? Is she talking to keep her mind off the injury? If not the dialogue really starts feeling forced.

FOURTEEN
I keep harping on it, but why doesn’t she think about being poisoned? Does she not realize it? She seems too worldly not to consider it.
 


- So some small things and some general prose tightening are needed. I’m not bothered by the generic nature of the story. You seem to have a lot of the fundamentals of pacing down (or at least the fundamentals of a beginning). As a reader I’d be willing to stick it out at least a bit longer until something big happens.

 

Edited by hawkedup
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Posted (edited)

@hawkedup Thank you for your feedback, but could you please edit your post to abbreviate the names? 

Thank you for editing, but you missed one. Section three.

Edited by JWerner
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Done.

Just read the thread. Looks like most of what I pointed out was already covered. Though I do want to reiterate that I'm not as bothered by the generic fantasy aspect as the others seem to be and I wouldn't be discouraged. As this is your first novel, that's probably going to be better for you in the long run when you're writing your third, fourth, fifth, etc books. You can use this time to hone your skills when it comes to pacing and plotting and character and setting.

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Hi JW, very interested to read your work for the first time. Straight to the comments:

(page 1)

- Interesting opening: my curiosity is engaged.

- I'm not sure what a flanking cobblestone is, but I know what a path is, so I'll go with that. hang on though, the path is surfaced with grain (I read this to mean wheat or barley or some such).

- Because the narrative flows very nicely, and is smooth and easy to read, I'm tending to focus on small line-by-line details. To me, they are strips of dried meat.

- I think she'd be dead before she made it back, not by the time, which implies she would die on the doorstep of the Star, exactly.

- Confused how to picture the longsword. If it's sheathed then there would be an actual sheathed that covered the entire length of the blade, however the only reference is to a loop, which isn't a sheath.

- 'marauders' is a kind of vague term. Are they thieves, raiders from another land, deserters from the local army, local resistance to an invading power? Seems like that word is an opportunity to give us more information about these people who might attack her. Also, no clue what a 'rib' is, so don't know how much to fear it.

- What's a 'tine's this context? I mean I know forks have tines, but I don't know what's happen here.

- Wait, what? People getting bigger? Like Ant-Man?

- Huh, what? She's only got one arm? I'd prefer to know that when she's checking the sword. I think at the first possible opportunity to reveal it. I've got no sense of how far away these people are, other than very far, since there is a horizon. More importantly, I've got know idea of the surrounding terrain, so it's extremely hard to picture what L can see, and therefore to evaluate her actions and reactions.

- typo: "of her the shift she wore"

- Convince who, the five newcomers? Again, I don't know how far away they are, so I can't evaluate this situation. I need more blocking at the beginning, when the path is being described.

(page 2)

- What happened? Did the marauders just stand there or did they come forward her? Confused. 

- If these marauders are wild and animalistic, effectively barbarians, I don't believe that they are just going to stand there while she approaches. I'm trying to understand why they don't charge her.

- What is a 'heap of a knife'? I can understand a heap of sawdust, a heap of potatoes, but a knife is a single object. I understand the phrase 'heap of a car', as in a wreck, but I don't understand that phrase in the context of a knife.

- Who or whites Sl? I can't read anything into that if I don't know what Sl is.

- "Can we kill her, boss?" - Need a comma here, otherwise it means he want's to kill her boss, i.e. immediate superior; the general presumably.

- We don't need the internal monologue here. It's obvious. The reader has already clocked this for themselves, so it's unnecessary, imo.

- "rhe man" - typo.

(page 3)

- "She'd heard far worse..." - I don't think the 'b' word even deserves this thought. I've had worse than the yelled at me.

- Up to now, the marauders don't seem very maraud-y; they seem very stupid and not scary. The advance of the kid to attack her is the first good bit of tension and conflict, for me. Interested to see how it plays out.

- Repetition of 'defeat/defeat(ed) sounds awkward/clumsy.

- Eh?! He just turns around and gives up? I'm very confused. Also, he didn't have a weapon, he was going to use his fists? And he must have known the boss would club him, so I struggle to believe that the kid would turn away, and also not try to defend himself against the boss. 

- Still don't know what a 'rib' is. For all I know it's like a muskrat or a gerbil or something. I can't be afraid of something I've never seen or heard of, in the absence of any description of it. I'm certainly not going to just take the author's word that it's something to strike fear into my heart.

- What's 'Ex'? Is it a person? A combat group? A form of sword fighting? Also, have you researched fencing? I have friends who fenced through Uni, I've seen a little up close, but not done any. There isn't quite enough description to truly picture the stance, but the sabre fencing I'm picturing has toes of the back foot pointing right and the toes of the front foot pointing forward towards the opponent. The fact that L's toes are pointing leftward tell us she is left-handed, yes?

(page 4)

- Right, you've lost me here. I don't mean confusion, I mean engagement. If you were facing five opponents, do you really think they would do you the courtesy of attacking you one at a time? I've never been a marauder, but I'm pretty sure the would never happen in this situation 'in the real world'.

- Is Sel mentioned here the same as Slone before, i.e. Slone was a typo?

- Loose stone? Where, on the path? It's really just a stone. It being loose doesn't affect the outcome, as far as I can see.

- "He laid still" - wrong tense, 'he lay still'.

- "searing pain down the back of her thigh" - Hallelujah, I'm pleased some's had the gumption to strike while she's occupied.

(page 5)

"forcing him into impaling himself upon his own weapon" - Sounds very unlikely.

- Eh? She's only killed twice before? Or is that only with this sword?

(page 6)

"look for feel deep" - typo.

- "Both his hands were raised..." - 'both' is redundant.

- "The two of them stared at each other..." - Again, it has to be two of them to stare at each other: this reads overwritten to me. 'They stared...' would be smoother, I think.

- Please tell me the boxer's not going to become her travelling companion.

- Why is L's dialogue italicised?

(page 7)

- My understanding of the term 'marauder' is that they are raiders, but him being called w/lander implies he's local? Still confused about the status of her attackers.

- Use of the word 'lead' implies to me she's seeking something specific, not just a way home. I get that 'lead' can be used in that way, but the first thing I think of when I read it is a private detective kind of thing. I don't think of get a lead on a way home.

- I'm a bit puzzled be the live or die thought. I take that she's an experienced warrior. She has skills and she reports to a general, but she doesn't know any battlefield first aid? That's hard to believe: that she can't wash out her wound a bind it. More than that, her thoughts are such that it doesn't even sound as if she would try to treat herself, but would just lay down a die.

- The italics for her dialogue are really annoying now.

(page 8)

- "cobblestone road" - Wait. No one builds a cobblestone road into the wilderness. If there's a cobbled road it most go to a town. So, if she was as good as she supposed to be, wouldn't she know that?

- "she reassumed her stance" - everything's a stance if you're not moving. I think battle stance would be clearer here.

- ...also, I knew he was going to be her companion. This is a heavily used trope: predicable.

- Why does the kid want to go with her? It seems really improbable. He's terrified of her.

"And what exactly makes you think I don't want to kill anyone?" - Lol. There are glimpses of her character, and what I've glimpsed, I like. I think maybe some more in these opening pages would be good.

(page 9)

- I didn't get the impression it was dark, but then L need a lightning flash to see the road ahead? Seems inconsistent.

- "whirling plumes of rough, black sand" - What is this, a beach? A sandstorm? Dunes? I don't get it.

- If lightning is needed to see the road, it must be dark enough that she can't see a dark smidge on the horizon surely. Also, 'horizon' tells me absolutely nothing, nada, rein about what this place looks like. How far away is the horizon? Are there houses, trees, hills, cattle, pyramids, giraffes?

(page 10)

- "didn't have the right medicine..." - Seems to me the medic is what is important, not the medicine. I can't shake the feeling that this type of comment displays and underlying lack of knowledge and experience in her.

- "If she showed any weakness to this Pisley, she was dead." - This really bothers me, and I feels like author ex machina. P's is a total coward, and she has dominated him already. She has given no reason internally or externally for allowing him along with her. She seems to have no need of his help. If she's concerned, just kill him!! Her position seems really inconsistent to me.

-"As the hours passed, the pain in her leg grew worse with every passing step." - Seems to me these statements are doing the same thing, showing the passage of time, but they are contradicting each other. Makes for awkward and confusing.

- Wait. They were on a cobbled road, now they're walking on sand? Confused. Also, I don't believe a swordsperson would use their weapon as a crutch. Surely there are trees around, to hack a branch off? But no, she doesn't need to do that. There are four bodies with weapons lying around that she could use as a crutch before using her own sword. I just don't believe she would do: it's not necessary. She could not have walked away from the bodies without a crutch, surely, so it's not like she would only think of that once they'd left the bodies behind. Also, she's resourceful and competent, so I really believe she'd make a makeshift crutch from something else.

- Why is speaking in quotes?

- I don't feel the wind. There's no description of its effects, blowing dust, whipping leaves or branches, buffeting, clouds scudding, trees bend in the distance.

(page 11)

- Why is 'screaming' in quotes?

(page 12)

- The dialogue here is bizarre. Is he seriously suggesting there is someone called 'Feces' (Faeces)? I don't know what to make of this world. And I'm not sure I understand the tone of the story. This conversation is like something from a Seth Rogan film.

- Confused again. Are Slo and Sel different people then? Their names are confusingly similar, especially given that we haven't met either of them.

- "Millions? How many is that?" - Lol. Good line. This is a nice, subtle detail that underlines P's character. I like that, and yet there is some much that seems inconsistent or unexplained. It's a bit frustrating.

- "someone of his...lacking upbringing" - grammar. I'd say 'with his lack of upbringing' is closer.

(page13)

- No. There's no way he can do multiplication given the level of intellect you've illustrated so far. Don't believe it.

- What is 'gellegmite'?

- "that he knuckles" - typo.

- "A wave of nausea suddenly punched her in the gut" - Using 'suddenly' actually makes this seem less sudden, because the reader has to read that extra word before getting to the thing.

Overall

Good character voice, although it could be punched up a little more in places, I thought. Very easy style to read, but some of the logic seemed off to me (as commented upon above). Also, an almost complete lack of description of the surroundings makes the story feel very small, centred on the characters. I never felt like I was in a 'real' place. The little description there was seemed mostly visual, although pain was touch of course. There is such a rich tapestry of sensation-based description available. The story feel kind of grey for that lack of description. All in all, the dearth of incoming data from the world makes the events feel almost muffled.

The fighting, meh. I find combat quite boring most of the time. I liked that your combat was pretty direct and to the point, not dragged out, however for me it was let down by the baddies acting like idiots, as baddies always seem to do, but not just rushing her. It happens in films and many stories because in reality, three or so baddies could subdue most human opponents. They never felt like any kind of threat.

My ultimate take-away is frustration. I like the situation, and the characters and their relationship has good potential, but there was too much that put me off the story in the form of inconsistent or illogical behaviour; lack of setting; etc, (per notes above).

Thank you for sharing. I'm very interested now to go read the thread and see what the others have made of it :) 

<R>

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Also, have you researched fencing? 

I've fenced myself! It's been a while since I last picked up a foil and I got my butt kicked all the time, but I've done it. 

As for your other criticism (and everyone else's), I hope I've already addressed most of the issues pointed you've all pointed out, in my revisions. If I'm in for Monday, hopefully you'll find the revised version of the chapter more palatable. 

Edited by JWerner
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On 20/05/2019 at 11:43 PM, JWerner said:

Holy mother, constructive feedback! Finally! You have no idea how long I've waited for someone to tell me straight that my writing is flawed. In all my years of creative writing, I seriously have never gotten a critique this extensive and in-depth. Not once. It's a breath of fresh air.

Whoo boy, JW... you are going to LOVE it here! :lol: 

Hey, @Alderant, I'm looking forward to you reading some of my stuff. Top quality critiquing, super thorough, I like it :)

On 21/05/2019 at 3:55 AM, Alderant said:

I suppose I could amend this by un-italicizing, and leaving the aforementioned line with 'speaking' in apostrophes intact to convey that something is up

Yeah, the italics things just looks like a mistake, whereas the use of 'commas' instantly conveyed on the first use that something was up. I guess because you can't put inverted commas in by 'mistake'.

On 21/05/2019 at 6:27 PM, kais said:

we love newbies and no one on here is out to be mean

This is true. If anything we are too enthusiastic ;) 

On 21/05/2019 at 6:27 PM, kais said:

show a powerful woman making bad choices to prop up emotions for a man

Yes, I was uncomfortable with this, but @kais expresses the issue way better than I could. She seemed really unlike herself by the end of the chapter.

On 21/05/2019 at 6:27 PM, kais said:

You tell a lot of what her body is feeling, but you convey almost no emotions throughout the section. There's very little here for me to empathize with, connect with, or otherwise love.

Yup.

On 21/05/2019 at 10:35 PM, JWerner said:

However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you all to bear with me on the italics.

How long are we talking? If it was a good reveal, and maybe it was in the next chapter... What is conveys to me, if I try and go with it, try to understand it in the context of the story, it seems to me like she's not actually there, like her consciousness is projected or possessing the body and she is speaking remotely (in effect) through the body's mouth. In the second novel in my light SF trilogy, I used italics for the absent party when characters were speaking to someone on the phone for this very reason. The other speaker was in absentia and, if I didn't use italics, it felt too much like they were 'in the room', standing next to the main party. The key difference is that it was completely obvious someone was on the phone. Now, that may be nothing like your reason, but if I had to accept it, that's the sort of thing I would assume. Oh, Option 2, she's using telepathy and her voice is in his head, not spoken out loud? Either way, the lack of understanding in the reader is frustrating.

On 22/05/2019 at 9:21 PM, Alderant said:

Hahaha, don't stress so much about how hard this might be. I put through my first submission back in January, and had my teeth kicked pretty hard with some things I hadn't thought of at all. That ended up actually being a good thing for me though, because it forced me to really go back and dig into what and how I wanted this story to go, and I'm finding what I have now is leagues above what I thought I had before. It'll get better. :)

Yeah, the group's superpower is honesty. I think I can say with some confidence that we all have suffered AND benefited from this during our time here. Someone people don't come back, but if you can take it on the chin (as I know I have, fairly hard on certain occasions) your writing will feel the benefit :) 

On 23/05/2019 at 4:14 AM, hawkedup said:

Though I do want to reiterate that I'm not as bothered by the generic fantasy aspect as the others seem to be and I wouldn't be discouraged.

For the record, I did not mind the setting at all, BECAUSE I COULDN'T SEE IT! :P:lol: 

 

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6 hours ago, JWerner said:

I've fenced myself! It's been a while since I last picked up a foil and I got my butt kicked all the time, but I've done it.

In that case, I believe you. Although if you got your butt kicked...

6 hours ago, JWerner said:

As for your other criticism (and everyone else's), I hope I've already addressed most of the issues pointed you've all pointed out, in my revisions. If I'm in for Monday, hopefully you'll find the revised version of the chapter more palatable. 

Excellent, I look forward to reading again, because I thought your style was excellent, very smooth and readable, it was always content that tripped me up :) 

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