Alderant

6/17/19 - Alderant - Expectations Shattered ~Prologue~ (V) - 2702 words

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Posted (edited)

V for violence.

This is the prologue of the epic fantasy I’ve been working at. For anyone who read the original submission back in January, please disregard almost all of it. The story’s been massively overhauled, with a very different focus than before. Keep in mind that this is also a prologue, without Chapter 1 attached to it (which will come in the next submission). It takes place ~2,000 years before the events of the novel. It’s liable to change or be omitted entirely if I feel the story stands strongly enough later down the road, but I wanted to get it out of the way first.

I also will be playing a bit with some standard fantasy tropes with this novel. I’m trying to avoid clichés, but you might notice some trends. You have been warned.

It is a (first) draft, so not as interested in line-by-lines unless something is written really confusingly. I’m concerned primarily with the following questions:

  • How do you feel about the conflict? Why?
  • Is what I’ve written interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?
  • What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?
  • Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?
  • Is there anything you feel I do poorly? If nothing, what can I strengthen?
  • Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?

The above questions are the ones I’m primarily concerned with as of this draft, but don’t let that dissuade you from adding anything else you feel is necessary. I would like as thorough a critique as you can give. :)

Edited by Alderant
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Hi there! I've been away from RE for a while--life has been crazy--but I hope to be around a bit more often in the future. I'm very new to giving critiques so mine probably won't be as in-depth as you would like, but I'll try my best :) 

Overall: This was a pretty good read. I like prologues if the setup is done well, as I feel like it was here. I know prologues aren't in vogue anymore, but I've always had a penchant for them.

  • Conflict was good with a nice buildup. I wasn't quite sure what was going on in the beginning, but by the third page I started to get a handle on it and became more invested. Maybe consider including a bit more explanation at the start concerning what is at stake and what the character's goal is.
  • Yes, this did keep my interest. Two people in conflict with each other is inherently interesting to me, and I read on with the intention of finding out who would get their way.
  • The main question I had regarded the magic. There was some explanation there at the end but I would have liked to know a bit more about how it worked and what exactly P was doing with it when he locked away the magic.
  • As far as I can tell, characterization is good. P feels very mission-driven and ruthless and this came across well during the opening. Your prose is good as well and I think your writing flows nicely. It wasn't a hard read at all.
  • Nothing really jumped out at me here...I think I'll leave this for the more experienced critiquers to address. :) 
  • Count me intrigued! Based on this prologue, I would keep reading.

Thanks for submitting!

 

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This was well written, but still, I have...issues.
I know the current view on prologues is negative, but that part wasn't a problem for me here. It's definitely an ending to a big event and show how the world gets into the state it is for the start of the book. I have a feeling there will be a lot of shattered old tech, so it makes sense to see it when it's new.

To your questions:
How do you feel about the conflict? Why?
--The main conflict I didn't really care about, because I have no idea who the two side represent. As to the personal conflict, I was on board with the MC's desperation, but I felt no one else was questioning his obvious madness except the one woman who was immediately overpowered. So there wasn't much chance for actual conflict.

Is what I’ve written interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?
--Definitely interesting. The glimpses at the magic system is neat, and I like the idea of a magic "sub realm."

What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?
--Mainly, what happens next (which is good). I don't really have questions about what happened because it seemed everyone was going to die anyway (which isn't as positive as it sounds).

Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?
--Good tension, and good hook, especially for a prologue.

Is there anything you feel I do poorly? If nothing, what can I strengthen?
--the first page or so is confusing. Could be tightened up. However, my main problem is with the lack of reaction of anyone else to what the MC is doing. He accuses E of being a traitor and everyone just goes along with it. He kills two people while others are watching and no one comments. Basically no one even tries to stop his plan from going through. He also straight up kills his daughter when he could have saved her, at least for a few more minutes. I mean, unless he is totally sociopathic, he's got to have some reaction to that.

Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?
--it does intrigue me to learn more, especially since the world has just changed.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "Wardens fallen, their bodies changed, distorted and turned against those they had once called friend."
--This reminds me a lot of Brian McClellan's Powder Mage series.

pg 1: “This is madness,”, "I knew you were mad, but this?"
--Reads as redundant. She's basically said he's mad the first time around and then says she already knew he was mad...

pg 3: "he said, addressing the man across "
--There are other people in this room! Also, I was wondering where the daughter had disappeared to.

pg 4: "a newly forming black eye. Tried to force her"
--eh? Forced the warden? Just to come in a room? Why?

pg 4: "as First Warden"
--if this is the leader of all the soldiers they're fighting over, maybe lead with that description.

pg 6: "When A kills E"
--what now? They're all just going to blindly accept a charge of treason? The warden isn't even going to ask for any proof? And the punishment is death?

pg 8: "Was no one else willing to make the sacrifices necessary to save humanity?"
--I'm actually fine with the MC's motivations to do this. You've shown he's desperate enough. What I don't get is that no one else questions him.

pg 9: "though both wore matching expressions of muted horror and anguish"
--but didn't protest at all...

pg 11: "Behind him, one of the two M-J gasped."
--No, they'd have to be fully cognizant of what's going on. Otherwise I would expect a lot of protest way before this point.

pg 11: "Both were dead. He should have warned them to Ascend, to disconnect from the m."
--Wait what? One of these is his daughter, right? You don't just accidentally forget to tell her to do a thing that will keep her from dying.

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Posted (edited)

20 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

However, my main problem is with the lack of reaction of anyone else to what the MC is doing. He accuses E of being a traitor and everyone just goes along with it. He kills two people while others are watching and no one comments. Basically no one even tries to stop his plan from going through. He also straight up kills his daughter when he could have saved her, at least for a few more minutes. I mean, unless he is totally sociopathic, he's got to have some reaction to that.

Mmm...good point. I knew there was something off in there. I'll have to go back and clarify that.

20 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

This reminds me a lot of Brian McClellan's Powder Mage series.

I've never actually read it. Hopefully it's not too similar in the long run.

20 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

eh? Forced the warden? Just to come in a room? Why?

That's probably something I can clear up.

20 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

if this is the leader of all the soldiers they're fighting over, maybe lead with that description.

Also something I can clarify.

Thanks for the feedback @Mandamon & @Truthweaver!

Edited by Alderant
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Now posted in the correct thread, <slaps forehead>

(page 1)

- "abounded inthe image" - I felt the grammar was off.

- "each one a critical [missing word?]that could not be lost, each one representing a squad of Ws fallen" - I felt there was a word missing here, critical what? Also, I was unsure if you meant fallen Ws, if not, then fallen from what? I was unclear.

- I'm really confused by what's going on. I thought that Ws were against the POV characters. And there are lots of terms and names flying around none of which mean anything to me. What whole thing will fall? I really think the opening has to be clearer. Do we need to hear about the graduate MJ thing here? I had to read that 2 or 3 times to get the sense of it.

- You could quite happily start the Prologue with "The doors of the small war chamber opened" Everything there is clear, unambiguous and his instant conflict with none of the confusion over all the facts and titles and names in the first few paragraphs that cause confusion (for me).

(page 2)

- Yes, this moral conflict between the two is much easier to read. I flew through it until I got to the term 'mi--'. I don't know what this is, so I don't really feel the stakes. I feel the stakes for humanity, by why do I care that the creatures want the 'mi--'?

(page 3)

- "right outside" - Huh? If there is battle going right outside the war room then this is the last gasp surely. But, if the pal is actively in the midst of fighting, how can they just stop and come into a meeting?! Very confused.

- "left out the door" - Obviously. Doesn't need saying, he can just leave the room.

(page 4)

- The pal arrives so quickly. This feels unreal, like no time has passed, but Vin had to go to the front, then they had to come back. And who is now holding the defence?

- "thismonsters can be" - typo.

- "To his left, E gasped" - I always struggle to remember that I'm reading YA, when I'm reading YA. This sounds melodramatic to me, but I guess it's okay for YA?

(page 5)

- "both of our peoples" - Confused. So, are the Ws of a different race?

- "remove the Council" - This seems bizarre to me, and far, far too easy for someone to abuse that power. One person, not elected, can remove the ruling Council on a whim? Weird.

- "panicked retreat proved its own profession of guilt" - This is freaky. What exactly is she guilty of, expressing a contrary opinion? And now that disagreement is going to be settled by butchery. I really hope this P is the bad guy, that's how it reads to me.

(page 6)

- I don't understand the significance of 'Descend'. They's standing right there. As something that is unexplained, I don't know how to deal with it and therefore have no choice but to ignore it.

- What is the backlash? Confused.

- "held firmly by an unseen hand" - I have no idea what is going on.

(page 8)

- What's the significance of the boom, seems weird.

- "as most of the scenery faded to gray" - I don't think the term 'scenery' applies to internal furnishings. I would say it's a terms applied to external settings, landscape, etc.

(page 9)

- I rather like the description of going into the Un---- World, and it explains Descending to me, but it's rather late on page 9. I think you need something in place earlier when Descending is first mention. Just enough of a hint to keep me going till I get this demonstration.

- "both wore matchingexpressions of muted horror" - This is redundant, repeating the function that 'both' serves. Or could say 'They wore expressions of muted horror.' Otherwise, it is cluttered.

- On page 7 he says he needs her soul, but he gives her something, so she still has her soul. Doesn't seem consistent.

(page 10)

- "your death ensures..." - Yeah, confused.

- "she whimpered" - I don't believe this of her. She's set up as the toughest warrior in the land. Seems like she would meet death with defiance. No one is coming out of this prologue well. But the female characters seems either to be traitorous or cowardly, which is not great.

- "one or two of the MJ gasped" - Wait, where did all these people come from? Blocking problem. This is the first I've conscious of anyone else being present apart from the people playing some part in events.

- "knife through butter" - Terribly clichéd metaphor. One of the tiredest ones out there. I know it's YA, and maybe cliché is not an issue, but this is very low-hanging fruit to me.

- "was already [missing word]her lungs"

(page 11)

- "locked his gaze" - I feel like it's the second or third time he has done this. It's another overused phrase, imo. 

- "until the light faded from themcompletely" - Grammar issue: the reference is to her gaze, which is singular, so he can't lock with 'them' unless the reference it to her eyes (plural).

- "Once she was dead, the world shook" - Why? Don't really understand.

- "the only survivors of D assault on their city" - What? Confused again. What happened to the other people in the room, who were gasping? So, everyone's dead now, just like that? The event has no weight, so it's very difficult to believe, not least because there's not explanation of what just happened.

- But wait, they haven't survived at all; they're dead. This is so confusing.

- "The world shook a third time" - The shaking and the booming is not explained.

(page 12)

- "kept the continent aloft" - Whaaa? No foreshadowing of this, it just appears from nowhere. Without the set up, it's just another unexplained thing. For things like this to work, I really need a reference to 'the floating continent' or some such early in the story, so that I can buy in when something happens to it later.

- "Rag-------" - No way. This is just a completely undisguised (almost) anagram of Ragnarök.

- It's not a bad ending to the prologue. The final couple of lines have impact, but would have so much more if what went before was not so jumbled and difficult to buy into.

Overall 

I had a lot of issues with this. There is so much that is not explained, or which just happens with little emotional weight to it that it's very difficult to buy into the situation. The overall arc of betrayal and deceit is potentially very powerful, and the planetary forces at play could be compelling, but I think there is a lot of work to do on the clarity of what is going on, and a lot of the references, characters and set up.

I don't feel the danger of the situation, the hopelessness, the last gasp desperation. The Pal being called in from battling at the very gates of the citadel, I didn't feel that: I didn't seem plausible.

My overall take-away was a sense of confusion, and lack of explanation. In some case, I think the right thing to do would be to remove details that are unnecessary and can be introduced in the main story itself. 

One of the recent Writing Excuses podcast (Season 14, Episode 22) is entitled Characters Out of Their Depth, but it deals also with reader confusion. I recommend (if you haven't already) listening to the cast from about 13/13:30 minutes in, when Brandon poses the question about new writers confusing their readers and Mary-Robinette responds about good confusion and bad confusion. Well worth a listen, given the issues I think there are with this opening to the story.

Summary: there's potential, but needs plenty of work, IMO.

Thanks for sharing!! :) 

<R>  

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"each one a critical [missing word?]that could not be lost, each one representing a squad of Ws fallen" - I felt there was a word missing here, critical what? Also, I was unsure if you meant fallen Ws, if not, then fallen from what? I was unclear.

Argh. It's battle, the missing word is battle.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Yes, this moral conflict between the two is much easier to read. I flew through it until I got to the term 'mi--'. I don't know what this is, so I don't really feel the stakes. I feel the stakes for humanity, by why do I care that the creatures want the 'mi--'?

I can clear that up.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"right outside" - Huh? If there is battle going right outside the war room then this is the last gasp surely. But, if the pal is actively in the midst of fighting, how can they just stop and come into a meeting?!

You're correct. Situation is dire, I need to go back and work that out.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"To his left, E gasped" - I always struggle to remember that I'm reading YA, when I'm reading YA. This sounds melodramatic to me, but I guess it's okay for YA?

It's not YA, so that's a problem if it's coming across that way.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"panicked retreat proved its own profession of guilt" - This is freaky. What exactly is she guilty of, expressing a contrary opinion? And now that disagreement is going to be settled by butchery. I really hope this P is the bad guy, that's how it reads to me.

:D

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"both of our peoples" - Confused. So, are the Ws of a different race?

Kiiiind of. They're human, but not...quite human. Similarly with the MJ. I can probably clarify this more, but I can't go into too much detail here because it's a plot point.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

I rather like the description of going into the Un---- World, and it explains Descending to me, but it's rather late on page 9. I think you need something in place earlier when Descending is first mention. Just enough of a hint to keep me going till I get this demonstration.

That I can do. Glad that the magic system seems to be well-received so far.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"she whimpered" - I don't believe this of her. She's set up as the toughest warrior in the land. Seems like she would meet death with defiance. No one is coming out of this prologue well. But the female characters seems either to be traitorous or cowardly, which is not great.

Ooohh that is definitely not what I was going for. That's going to need revision.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"knife through butter" - Terribly clichéd metaphor. One of the tiredest ones out there. I know it's YA, and maybe cliché is not an issue, but this is very low-hanging fruit to me.

Argh, this isn't supposed to be YA, so I definitely need to go back and adjust some things here.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"one or two of the MJ gasped" - Wait, where did all these people come from? Blocking problem. This is the first I've conscious of anyone else being present apart from the people playing some part in events.

I have to go back and check, but I thought the line was "one of the two". There are only two others, H & Vin. This probably falls into the category of 'needs clarification'.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

"Rag-------" - No way. This is just a completely undisguised (almost) anagram of Ragnarök.

That is correct. I've not been happy with the name, but I haven't figured out a suitable replacement yet.

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

I had a lot of issues with this. There is so much that is not explained, or which just happens with little emotional weight to it that it's very difficult to buy into the situation. The overall arc of betrayal and deceit is potentially very powerful, and the planetary forces at play could be compelling, but I think there is a lot of work to do on the clarity of what is going on, and a lot of the references, characters and set up.

I don't feel the danger of the situation, the hopelessness, the last gasp desperation. The Pal being called in from battling at the very gates of the citadel, I didn't feel that: I didn't seem plausible.

My overall take-away was a sense of confusion, and lack of explanation. In some case, I think the right thing to do would be to remove details that are unnecessary and can be introduced in the main story itself. 

One of the recent Writing Excuses podcast (Season 14, Episode 22) is entitled Characters Out of Their Depth, but it deals also with reader confusion. I recommend (if you haven't already) listening to the cast from about 13/13:30 minutes in, when Brandon poses the question about new writers confusing their readers and Mary-Robinette responds about good confusion and bad confusion. Well worth a listen, given the issues I think there are with this opening to the story.

Summary: there's potential, but needs plenty of work, IMO.

Thanks for returning the favor. I knew there were issues, but I couldn't put my finger on them--I was a bit afraid of being ripped apart and told "nope. This doesn't work at all" (self-doubt depression brain and all), so having potential is good. I was trying to avoid overwriting the prologue (I have a tendency to overwrite) and in retrospect, I apparently overcompensated and massively underwrote it. Writing a time-removed prologue is tricky, I've discovered, because it's a fine balance of divulging necessary information and holding back others for a sense of mystery...but clearly, there's more necessary information I need to add. So I'm going to have to dig back in and revise this...probably be a resubmit to make sure I'm hitting the essential points and getting the tone right.

Thanks for the podcast recommendation, there's so many of those that I've been wary of digging into them for lack of what to look at.

On the subject of this being YA, can you elaborate more on why it comes across that way? I don't intend it to be YA at all, so I want to make sure I know what I'm doing to make it come across that way and fix it.

Thanks for the feedback!

Edited by Alderant
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18 hours ago, Alderant said:

It's not YA, so that's a problem if it's coming across that way.

Err, so this is a remnant of me posting my comments in the wrong thread (I managed to get myself mixed up with JW's Ancient Greek western :rolleyes: So yes, I always think 'gasp' is a wee bit melodramatic, but if I'm the only one that says that, then keep it! Unless you agree. I sometimes fall into a trap of trying to fix everything that's raised, but if it's a lone voice of five or six that's raising something, maybe you were right the first time :) 

18 hours ago, Alderant said:

Argh, this isn't supposed to be YA

My bad!! Please disregard any references I made to YA, my mistake. But still 'knife through butter'...

18 hours ago, Alderant said:

I thought the line was "one of the two"

It may well have been. If you haven't motived by now, it's not beyond possibility that I have taken the wrong end of the stick. I have a large collection of sticks from over the years that I'm not sure what to do with, because all I've got is the wrong end :unsure: 

18 hours ago, Alderant said:

On the subject of this being YA, can you elaborate more on why it comes across that way?

Certainly, it's because I'm a d-u-m-b-a-s-s and read the wrong thread introduction :lol: 

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Overall

Well the tension is there, and I thought the blocking worked well. I'm left confused by the motivation for all this killing, and I think the world needs to be a bit better established before we go about destroying it. A lot of new words came at me that I didn't have time to internalize before another set came, so I'm left with this sort of vague world flavor that I couldn't begin to describe, and then very strong, negative feelings about the protag who appears to be a sociopath. To have killed that many named women in an intro chapter, too, is going to read pretty rough so the following chapter would really need to hammer back against that.

With all that said, I really liked the magic and the description of the action was awesome. I got a hint of the flavor of Summerland

On 6/17/2019 at 0:46 PM, Mandamon said:

I mean, unless he is totally sociopathic, he's got to have some reaction to that.

This was also my problem. He acts really unhinged and no one really reacts to that. Then he basically kills his daughter and he doesn't react. More reacts, please

On 6/19/2019 at 2:51 AM, Robinski said:

I had a lot of issues with this. There is so much that is not explained, or which just happens with little emotional weight to it that it's very difficult to buy into the situation. The overall arc of betrayal and deceit is potentially very powerful, and the planetary forces at play could be compelling, but I think there is a lot of work to do on the clarity of what is going on, and a lot of the references, characters and set up.

I don't feel the danger of the situation, the hopelessness, the last gasp desperation. The Pal being called in from battling at the very gates of the citadel, I didn't feel that: I didn't seem plausible.

This is an excellent summation of my issues as well.

 

Your Questions

How do you feel about the conflict? Why?

I don't understand the why of the conflict, but the actual action is great and elicits a lot of emotions. I need better motivation, though.

 

Is what I’ve written is interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?

Yes, I'm interested. I'm concerned about the mass death of the women, the heavy, adamant MEN AND WOMEN ONLY subtext, and that I'm not sure what is going on, but the magic system is cool and I do love a good sociopath villain.

 

What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?

My questions at this stage are:

1) what the heck is going on

2) is there a reason the narrative is so strongly enforcing a binary gender/sex system. It's so strong that it makes me wonder if it will be subverted later, like it is being purposefully stated over and over to establish this element that isn't true. I should add here that I don't actually care if the world is super binary. It's fantasy, and it's your world, you do you. It's just the constant repetition of it seems either 1) foreshadowing or 2) weirdly political

 

Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?

The pacing was great! 

 

Is there anything you feel I do poorly? If nothing, what can I strengthen?

Emotions, reactions, worldbuilding need work. Quite frankly I think the 'EMOTE MORE' crit could just be copy/pasted into every crit we do on this site. @industrialistDragon always tells me to 'emote for the cheap seats,' which I find to be very useful.

 

Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?

Yes. Even picking this up cold in a bookstore I would move to chapter two. I don't generally like epic fantasy, and there's some warning signs for me in this prologue, but there were enough women and good characterization (to a point), and cool magic system, that I would move to chapter one to see if the world more firmly establishes and if female characters pop back into prominence and stay alive. 

 

As I go

- pg 1: I think it would be a stronger start without the dialogue line at the front

Every woman, every man, every child <--- bonus: the enbies live! (this is a fantasy world so this isn't a crit at all, just me being funny)

- pg 4: I'd like to note that while I generally do not like most epic fantasy, since it tends to come with far too many wandering, chosen one men for my liking, I'm pleased by the gender ratio thus far

- pg 6: I am engaged but don't actually know what is happening. I think I've had too many new words thrown at me without enough context. So I'm in a 'WOW IS HE EVIL??' mode while also going 'wait what now?'

- pg 9: okay this guy better be evil because after whatever soul crushing thingamajig he did, to call her a 'pretty face' makes me want to fight

- pg 10: the constant referral to man, woman, child is actually starting to wear on me at this stage. Does the lack of other genders and sexes need to be pointed out quite so much? Is it plot relevant? 

- pg 11: wait, he just let his daughter die? Cannot suspend disbelief here. He should have told those two to do their magic and not die. This seems very unrealistic

 

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1 hour ago, kais said:

This was also my problem. He acts really unhinged and no one really reacts to that. Then he basically kills his daughter and he doesn't react. More reacts, please

Good to know. I've tried to adjust this a bit in the revision.

1 hour ago, kais said:

I don't understand the why of the conflict, but the actual action is great and elicits a lot of emotions. I need better motivation, though.

Noted. I've tried to make this more clear, so let me know what you think when I send the revision.

1 hour ago, kais said:

Emotions, reactions, worldbuilding need work. Quite frankly I think the 'EMOTE MORE' crit could just be copy/pasted into every crit we do on this site. @industrialistDragon always tells me to 'emote for the cheap seats,' which I find to be very useful.

Good bit of advice. I'll try to keep that in mind as well.

1 hour ago, kais said:

2) is there a reason the narrative is so strongly enforcing a binary gender/sex system. It's so strong that it makes me wonder if it will be subverted later, like it is being purposefully stated over and over to establish this element that isn't true. I should add here that I don't actually care if the world is super binary. It's fantasy, and it's your world, you do you. It's just the constant repetition of it seems either 1) foreshadowing or 2) weirdly political

1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 4: I'd like to note that while I generally do not like most epic fantasy, since it tends to come with far too many wandering, chosen one men for my liking, I'm pleased by the gender ratio thus far

Hopefully, this ends up being an epic fantasy you actually enjoy. Prevalence of men vs. women in fantasy is a direct trope I'm working against. I've constructed the entire world around this concept. Primarily, this is an epic fantasy I'm writing for my daughters, so one of my forefront thoughts is female characters they can identify with and look up to as they get older, and it's an epic fantasy where mostly women are the heroes. I'm also trying to play with some gender dynamics and sexuality, though since stretching my comfort zones means that it's probably still a few steps behind what others might be used to, some patience might be in order.

1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 6: I am engaged but don't actually know what is happening. I think I've had too many new words thrown at me without enough context. So I'm in a 'WOW IS HE EVIL??' mode while also going 'wait what now?'

Yeah, I'm trying to fix this in the revision.

1 hour ago, kais said:

Yes. Even picking this up cold in a bookstore I would move to chapter two. I don't generally like epic fantasy, and there's some warning signs for me in this prologue, but there were enough women and good characterization (to a point), and cool magic system, that I would move to chapter one to see if the world more firmly establishes and if female characters pop back into prominence and stay alive.

Cool. Thanks. I think this means I'm on the right track, at least.

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Hey @Alderant! Sorry about the late reply. Work and home life have been absolutely bonkers this week. Luckily for me, the others are as awesome as always and covered most of the issues I had with the piece so I won't bother going over them again.

Here we go to your questions:

  • How do you feel about the conflict? Why?
    - I like the concept of this prologue. It reminds me of the first prologue in WOK where you don't really know what's going on but you know it's important and will come back at some point. Unfortunately, I feel dispassionate toward the conflict(s) here and I think it's because while there are a lot of details, it really feels like you are being intentionally vague. This wouldn't be a problem if I had a better grasp on one or two aspects of the prologue. Like if you left some of the bigger stuff vague but really honed in on a primary conflict. There are multiple conflicts going on, but even the one I feel should be the strongest (when he kills his daughter) I'm left scratching my head. I have a daughter. You have daughters. This moment should be gut wrenchingly awful, but the emotional impact is lost in the shuffle.
     
  • Is what I’ve written interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?
    - Definitely interesting. An epic fantasy built on a formerly technologically advanced world isn't exactly unique or groundbreaking, but melding the tech with the magic feels fresh, and that's what is really important. 
     
  • What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?
    - This goes back to my previous point about being vague. After reading this all I have is questions. I don't really know what is happening outside. I don't fully understand what is happening inside. I don't understand the characters motivations. When I am given some sort of answers they only feel like half answers. I hate to say it, but reading this reminded me of watching LOST. There really is a lot of good there, but in the end I just felt frustrated.
     
  • Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?
    - Do well: You can definitely build a scene and suspense. Improve: Give us one concrete plot line/conflict, preferably the father/daughter conflict.
     
  • Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?
    - Definitely. I especially like what you said in one of your comment about writing a fantasy world for your daughters.
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On 6/21/2019 at 9:28 AM, Alderant said:

I'm also trying to play with some gender dynamics and sexuality, though since stretching my comfort zones means that it's probably still a few steps behind what others might be used to, some patience might be in order.

There's some decent expertise on the board in these areas, so don't feel bashful about asking questions in the lounge or wherever. It's almost always better to ask questions first, then write, than to write and have a bunch of us go o_O'

Good luck. It's a brave new world you're embarking into!

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Overall: there is definitely promise here! But there's not a lot of reactions or descriptions, and a lot of intentional obfuscation, so I had a really hard time caring or remembering anything. 

Questions

How do you feel about the conflict?  I feel not a whole lot, honestly. It feels useless and pointless so far because I have no points of reference. Clearly if this is a prologue, then the "end of the world" didn't really happen (otherwise it wouldn't be a book, it's be a short story and that would be the end). I couldn't tell any of the characters apart, I didn't know what anything looked like, and no one was particularly sympathetic to me because I didn't know what they were thinking or feeling. There's a daughter in there somewhere and apparently our POV-dad didn't care about her enough to tell her to log out of her psychic-magic system before he crashed it, and if he doesn't care, why should I?  

Is what I’ve written is interesting?  It's well written. Structurally, nothing really dragged past the first page or so; grammatically I found nothing to complain about. Character-wise, well, I want to like them, but they're all pretty generic and personality-less for me right now. The POV character comes closest to having a personality that I could distinguish, but I feel like his motives are being intentionally obscured, and thus, since I don't know why he's doing anything, I'm not terribly interested what happens when he does it. I also retained none of their names. No people names, no job names, no place names, nothing.  

What questions does this makes you ask (if any)?  What does anything look like? Taste like? Feel like? Smell like? Where is this located? What are they wearing? Do their clothes have weight? Does the armor make a noise? Have a smell? Pinch? What is the table made of? What is the door connected to? Is this room large or small? How can a small room fit four people and a holotable? Does it have walls? Windows? A transom? A musty smell from too many bodies? Tacky photos of prior councilors in metrically-precise rows down the entire length of a wall, in an unbroken chain representing the past 500 years of prosperity? What's the air like? Why is magic associated with humidity (and wouldn't humidity just be unbearable to people accustomed to dry air and not like good the way it seems here)? Are the people large or small? Do they have hair? Eyes? Lips? Skin? BO? I rather like the idea these are just talking skeletons, now that I think about it. Headcannon accepted. Talking-skeleton apocalypse. 

Is there anything you feel I do well? There is definitely drama and tension here, but I need, as @kais says, buy-in. Why do I care? Okay so the world is ending (but not really  because it's the prologue), but why does this affect me-the-reader? Whose emotions do I latch onto, who am I rooting for?  I also enjoyed the gender parity and competency.  That there was both a warrior and a scholar represented without it being called attention to for weird reasons was also nice. The technical aspects are well-executed. @Robinski has a point about the warrior-skeleton.  I am super into talking-skeleton apocalypse.

Is there anything you feel I do poorly? /  does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?  Honestly, I skim all prologues at this point, unless they're done really-really well. If it's not important enough to put in the book proper, why do I need to read it? I've found prologues tend to be filled with people who die by the end of the prologue and/or appear nowhere else, so if I'm going to make an emotional investment in a character, I'd rather it be someone who was going to last more than 5 pages. (I have problems with POV-just-to-die in general. I want to care, and care more than just a chapter). So, had I found this organically, I might not have read past the first paragraph or page, and given my trial chapter to either a random portion of the book, or the actual chapter one. That said, this is tension-filled and seems like a solid, if well-worn opening. Had I more reactions and emotion, more reason to care about warrior-skeleton, I would have kept reading. 

 

As-I-go:

This is a lot of names-with-no-context to be thrown at me at once. I'm having trouble distinguishing person-names from job titles or other place names. There's action and tension, yes, but without description and context, I'm left adrift and separated from it all. 

3 pages in and I'm super lost. I feel like in-medias-res works when there are enough tactile details to anchor me to the scene and enough characterization for me to see separate personalities quickly and efficiently. I'm not getting that here. It's just been talking heads yelling at each other in a nondescript room somewhere. 

"panicked retreat proved"  -Or common sense. I'd run too if and armored person with a sword came at me threateningly, clean conscience or no.  I'm a little unclear what happened here. Person 1 (our POV) summoned person 2 (a knight) from a war  -- somewhere, somewhen, somehow -- said person 2's job title a few times and now Person 3 (too dovelike for war) is being executed because saying a job title means it's okay to execute people in a room? I just have no hooks to differentiate these people or to get a grasp on why things are dire enough to maybe possibly be executing a head of state and staging a coup? What do they look like? What does the room look like? Do they have feelings? What do things feel like? Smell like? Taste like?

"Could no one else see" -- Well, no, I can't. I can tell there are angel/demon overtones here, but I'm secular and have never followed any Inspirational/Christian series. Most of this is completely without reference for me. I want to, that's a testament to the writing here,  but I don't know what's going on.  I can't tell anyone apart, and I was hit with so many similar-looking names at once, with such a lack of sensory descriptions that none of them have stuck. I want to be in on this tension, but I feel like I'm being actively blocked. Multiple-sensory descriptors aren't just good worldbuilding, they let different people attach to the sense description that they most identify with and use that to tell characters and places apart. I'm missing so much of that here. 

There's a lot of intentional obfuscation going on here I feel like, and it makes me wonder why this prologue is here in the beginning. Like, if there's so much that can't yet be revealed, why put this story as the opening? Maybe it happened first chronologically, but if nothing can be described or explained right now, I feel like maybe it's better put closer to where it actually becomes vital information to have. 

 

On 6/21/2019 at 10:05 AM, kais said:

'emote for the cheap seats,

lol, I'm glad that bit of theater opinion has resonated so well!

On 6/17/2019 at 0:46 PM, Mandamon said:

I have no idea who the two side represent.

On 6/19/2019 at 2:51 AM, Robinski said:

There is so much that is not explained, or which just happens with little emotional weight

It me.

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Posted (edited)

Hi Alderant,

You have some pretty big problems here: the prologue is deliberately vague to the point that I have no idea what is happening, the dialogue is stilted, and the use of time and space leave me wanting. To sum up my answers to your bullet-point questions, I implore you to give us a better picture of what the characters (especially P) wants and why, without being so deliberately vague. I would also like a better sense of where and for how long events happening outside the room were happening. And the dialogue needs an overhaul; to me, it felt like the characters spoke almost entirely in clichés. I would try to make it seem more militaristic without having to resort to exposition and medieval-like speech.

  • How do you feel about the conflict? Why?—I was indifferent to it. There were no clear stakes, I had no idea who was fighting what, where, in what amount, with what weaponry and tactics and magic.
  • Is what I’ve written interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?—The one thing I found myself interested is in Descending; what it is, how it works. 
  • What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?—I just kept thinking to myself, 'What the heck is going on?' 
  • Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?—Please make things clearer. I want a cleaner, sharper picture of what is happening and why. It is obvious that you are holding back a lot of information here, and that does not motivate me to want to keep reading. It is frustrating. 
  • Is there anything you feel I do poorly? If nothing, what can I strengthen?—Please make your characters' intentions clearer. Also, I had little sense of time and space; how far away was this battle taking place? How quickly were the monsters approaching? The world did not feel tangible.
  • Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?—Honestly, no. It did not. But I think it could, with revisions.

My notes are below:

(page 1):

-...he studied the blue-tinted, holographic map—Okay, but what's the map of?

-Red dots abounded the image, each one a critical that could not...—A critical of what, exactly? 

The Ws have seized the binding points as ordered. They hold, though their fight is desperate.—This dialogue feels awfully stilted and medieval for something taking place in a world with holograms. 

(page 2):

-He pulled on it, zooming it in to a surface level and revealing a lone W being overrun by the monstrous horde of D.—Since we don't know the scale of this map yet, it leaves me wondering just how precise/imprecise this map is. 

-They’ll seize the very lifeblood of this planet and use it against the innocent masses.—Some narm-heavy exposition here. It feels way too over-the-top to be natural. 

(page 3):

-“Fighting where the situation is most dire, more than likely,”—Why doesn't V just give a direct answer? 

(Page 4):

-The door opened with a loud groan as a battered-looking W pushed their way through the heavy, reinforced door of the S.—Why not just identify her as the P now? It's pretty obvious who she is.

-Tried to force her, I’ll bet, P thought with some measure of amusement. Novice mistake.—Italicized P's thoughts. 

-“Why did you call me from the defense?” the P asked, her weary voice tinny from inside the large helm that obscured her face.—Deleted 'the' and 'feminine.' 

-"...you sorry lot will find out just how terrifying these monsters can be.”—But I'm not getting much sense of danger around these monsters.

-“But there is a matter that requires your attention…as FW.”—So is P or A the First Warden? It's not clear. 

(page 5):

-To his left, E gasped.—I feel like this should be before 'The P' cocked her head to the side. 

-The tall, armored woman flinched. Visibly.—I'd just say 'The P' instead of 'tall, armored woman.' You've already established that about her. Also not sure 'visibly' is necessary.

-"She would see all of humanity, the civilians and both of our peoples, fall to the creatures you so valiantly fight."—Pretty sure the P already knows she's fighting them. 

-“She is at direct odds with the best interests of humanity, and so I invoke the FW’s Oath.”—This dialogue needs attribution. Also, why doesn't the P ask for proof? She just takes him at his word? Why? 

-It was the only check on the Council’s authority—The ONLY check? This does not sound like a stable governing body to me. 

(page 6): 

-“When A kills E, both of you Descend and bind her. If our plan is to succeed, A cannot be allowed to escape.”—First off, why is he saying this out loud where she can hear, even if she is distracted? Also, don't V and H already know this? Why does P have to remind them? 

-When it finally came off, she hunched forward and vomited across the ground.—In my experience, 'ground' is always outdoors and 'floor' is always indoors. 

-she was caught by surprise as one of her arms suddenly flew to the side—I would replace the bolded 'she' with 'P'

-"Release me! I must return to the fight!”—How did she get back from the fight, anyways?

(page 7):

-“I know you view the Ws as your children,”—Obvious exposition. 

-Her eyes went wide with horror. “You bastard. You’re going to kill everyone!”—I don't see why she doesn't just refuse outright immediately, even if she has no choice?

-Could no one else see how dire things were?—I don't.

(page 8):

-A deafening boom filled the chamber moments later.—From what? 

The realm of life, a reflection of the planet’s own soul.—Sounds like the lifestream from Final Fantasy VII. 

(page 9):

-He raised his hand, the blue-green key glowing in his palm,—Wait, what? When and how did he get that?

(page 11):

-P turned to the other two, the only survivors of the D assault on their city.—Added 'the'.

I absolutely believe you can improve upon what you've already written, and I look forward to reading it again if you re-submit. Please do so!

 

 

 

Edited by JWerner
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Whew. This is great feedback.

12 hours ago, kais said:

There's some decent expertise on the board in these areas, so don't feel bashful about asking questions in the lounge or wherever. It's almost always better to ask questions first, then write, than to write and have a bunch of us go o_O'

I'll try to keep this in mind as I go, but part of the problem is simply I don't know what questions to ask. Thanks for the support.

12 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

What does anything look like? Taste like? Feel like? Smell like? Where is this located? What are they wearing? Do their clothes have weight? Does the armor make a noise? Have a smell? Pinch? What is the table made of? What is the door connected to? Is this room large or small? How can a small room fit four people and a holotable? Does it have walls? Windows? A transom? A musty smell from too many bodies? Tacky photos of prior councilors in metrically-precise rows down the entire length of a wall, in an unbroken chain representing the past 500 years of prosperity? What's the air like? Why is magic associated with humidity (and wouldn't humidity just be unbearable to people accustomed to dry air and not like good the way it seems here)? Are the people large or small? Do they have hair? Eyes? Lips? Skin? BO?

These are really good questions. Thanks!

12 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Whose emotions do I latch onto, who am I rooting for?

That's also a good question, one I hadn't fully considered.

12 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

This is a lot of names-with-no-context to be thrown at me at once. I'm having trouble distinguishing person-names from job titles or other place names. There's action and tension, yes, but without description and context, I'm left adrift and separated from it all.

I've tried to reduce and fix this in the revision. I got used to using certain terms in the plotting/drafting stages and forgot to properly introduce all of them.

12 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

"panicked retreat proved"  -Or common sense. I'd run too if and armored person with a sword came at me threateningly, clean conscience or no.  I'm a little unclear what happened here. Person 1 (our POV) summoned person 2 (a knight) from a war  -- somewhere, somewhen, somehow -- said person 2's job title a few times and now Person 3 (too dovelike for war) is being executed because saying a job title means it's okay to execute people in a room? I just have no hooks to differentiate these people or to get a grasp on why things are dire enough to maybe possibly be executing a head of state and staging a coup? What do they look like? What does the room look like? Do they have feelings? What do things feel like? Smell like? Taste like?

Yeah, I've discovered I have some issues with setting the scene properly. I have trouble recognizing scenery in real life, so I'm working to fix this in the revision.

12 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

There's a lot of intentional obfuscation going on here I feel like, and it makes me wonder why this prologue is here in the beginning. Like, if there's so much that can't yet be revealed, why put this story as the opening? Maybe it happened first chronologically, but if nothing can be described or explained right now, I feel like maybe it's better put closer to where it actually becomes vital information to have.

This is probably more likely a failing on my part. But that's a good question to consider.

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

And the dialogue needs an overhaul; to me, it felt like the characters spoke almost entirely in clichés. I would try to make it seem more militaristic without having to resort to exposition and medieval-like speech.

Noted. Though, I'll ask: what defines "medieval-like speech"?

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

The one thing I found myself interested is in Descending; what it is, how it works. 

That seems to be the most interesting part so far. Trying to fix this in the revision...I feel like the focus is off here.

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

Some narm-heavy exposition

Sorry, I'm not sure what that means?

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

So is P or A the First Warden? It's not clear.

P is MJ. A is Warden. But yes, that could distinctly be clearer. I'm wondering if I should write this segment from A's viewpoint instead. It'd take out the use of the magic system in the prologue, but it might be a little more of an engaging intro. Thoughts?

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

Sounds like the lifestream from Final Fantasy VII.

I draw inspiration from many places. The lifestream is one of them, though the similarities end here. :)

You'll probably pick up on a few little nods to my influential sources throughout the novel.

9 hours ago, JWerner said:

I absolutely believe you can improve upon what you've already written, and I look forward to reading it again if you re-submit. Please do so!

Thanks! Probably next week or the week after. I think I'm going to do a test run of writing this same scene from A's perspective, P is clearly not working at this stage for a number of reasons.

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15 minutes ago, Alderant said:

part of the problem is simply I don't know what questions to ask.

As much as my academic soul cringes at using it as an official reference, Wikipedia is a good place to start when you have no idea what questions you even need to ask. Otherwise, PMs are a good place to ask questions you're too self-conscious to broach publicly. @kais probably has more lived-in knowledge, but if you can give me an idea (even a nebulous one) of what you're interested in/wanting to do/looking for/curious about/etc, I can make you a reading list. :) 

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1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

As much as my academic soul cringes at using it as an official reference, Wikipedia is a good place to start when you have no idea what questions you even need to ask. Otherwise, PMs are a good place to ask questions you're too self-conscious to broach publicly. @kais probably has more lived-in knowledge, but if you can give me an idea (even a nebulous one) of what you're interested in/wanting to do/looking for/curious about/etc, I can make you a reading list. :) 

I do try to get proper knowledge before I write. But I might miss some things by virtue of ignorance (that it's a thing I should be concerned about). So, I'll ask forgiveness in advance, and if something comes up be sure I'll be asking about it. :)

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Here is my super late critique:

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • How do you feel about the conflict? Why?
  •  

There was plenty of conflict and tension between the groups, though I admit it was having a little bit of troubling tracking what was going on. It seemed like quite a few people were introduced all at once. Because I was struggling to keep track of who was who and who wanted what, I wasn't as invested in the conflict as I'd like to be. 

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • Is what I’ve written interesting? What about it (if anything) is interesting to you? If not, why?
  •  

The decision the main character had to make is interesting, but not enough time was given to show the complexity of it. Instead, more focus was on the mc having already made a decisions and plotting to do what he thought "must be done." It almost felt more like the end of a story than the begining of one. My understanding was that it left off with everyone dying or about to die. Where can it go from here? It felt more like something that could be revised into a complete short story more than the opening of a novel. 

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • What questions does this makes you ask (if any)? If the answer is no, why?
  •  

The big question was the one mentioned above. "Where can this go next if everyone died?" Will the next chapter be a new character somewhere else that was affected by this? Does P somehow survive? I do have a lot of questions about the Wardens, about the world, and about how P got himself into this position, but those aren't things that need to be answered right here. 

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • Is there anything you feel I do well? If nothing, how can I improve?
  •  

You've done a good job creating a scenario where characters are morally and ethically at odds with eachother. You've done a great job showing the stakes. I can clearly visualize your characters and the setting they are in.

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • Is there anything you feel I do poorly? If nothing, what can I strengthen?
  •  

You could do with a little more internal reaction from the mc. 

The following are some notes I made while I read that also address question:

"Tried to force her, I'll bet..." This line threw me out of the story for multiple reasons. First because the narrator switched from they to her with no explanation as to why. The explanation came later, and by then I was too annoyed. The assumption that the guy got the black eye by trying to "force" her also really turns me off to this world. Just in general, I'm sick of reading stories where that type of thing is the norm. And from what we learn about her later, it seems like the guy would really have to be in idiot to think something like that, so what is he even doing there at all?

I got a little confused when P was invoking the "responsibilities of the First Warden." A was really quick to take P at his word and kill E. A didn't even give E a chance to explain anything. I had a hard time believing they'd not doubt or question one person's word against another. 

"...daughter, took her into his arms..." So A was P's daughter? 

On 6/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, Alderant said:
  • Most importantly, does this intrigue you enough to want to continue reading?

 

 I will keep reading because this is a critique group, but if it was a book I was browsing in a shop, I'd be on the fence about whether or not to continue. If this many people die in the prologue alone, how many are going to die in the book? On the other hand, I am curious to see what happens to this world P killed billions of people to save. I don't care about him, but if started the next chapter and he was not the POV character, I'd be more likely to keep reading. Of course, if I were picking this up in a book store, I'd read the opening and the end before I decided if I was going to buy it / read the whole thing. I'm kind of an odd reader. 

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