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JWerner

6/24/19—JWerner—Greek Confederates, Chapter 2—4,175—(L, V, G)

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

I just completed chapter 2 today. I apologize if it comes across as rough; this is not original to the first draft, unlike chapter 1/prologue 1 (I decided to just call this chapter 2). Writing this chapter was part of my goal to make some of the characters and their objectives a bit more fleshed out and clear-cut; they weren't as much in the first draft. Let me know if I succeeded or failed.
 
As always, feel free to tear the bloody thing to ribbons, and I will take the feedback and use it for chapter 3 (which I am 95% sure I won't have to make from scratch). 
 
In chapter 1: Ranchers J. and her Uncle D went out hunting for a hydra that killed one of their herd. Using a Channel—a drink that gives humans animal attributes—they find the hydra, only to discover it's been killed by a man belonging to a feared outlaw band called the BRs. The R kills Uncle D, and J kills the R in turn using Channels. Doing so, however, takes a dire toll on her body.
 
P.S. Sorry to all who received, I forgot to put 'Reading Excuses', the word count and the content ratings in my submission e-mail. I apologize; it just slipped my mind. 
 
P.P.S.: My avatar is this chapter's POV character. 
 
P.P.P.S. And SOMEHOW I ended up posting this twice! All I did was hit 'edit,' and a second thread popped up! I clicked 'hide', but I don't know if that hid it for everyone else. So in case anyone still sees the duplicate thread, apologies, and if anyone has the capability of deleting it, please do so.
Edited by JWerner
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Overall

I was confused for the first half, as I thought it might be a reworking of chapter one since it had functionally the same plot. I realize now it's not, so I don't think chapter one is likely necessary. This delivers the same information and worldbuilding. I do like the head batteries and that part of the worldbuilding, but injury without consequence strips the tension from battles. If people can't get hurt, why fight? If there is nothing to lose, why not find a method of combat that does have stakes?

In that same vein, hand battles with banter are... hard to do. This one went on too long and I didn't get any tension from it. I'd be more interested if one or both of them couldn't regenerate, or if she was working for the battery from the start so she was instantly vulnerable and then, when she lay dying, he gave her a battery and conscripted her into service or something akin.

The buy in, which comes at the very end of the chapter, would serve better at the start. That was the hook I was looking for to tell myself why I cared about the characters.

In the end, I think all the components are there, but they need some rearranging. 

 

As I go

- pg 1: I don't think I've ever met a professor that dressed inappropriately for field work. The same cannot be said for undergraduates. Graduate students generally are pretty good about it though

- pg 2: if she has to be signaled with a mirror due to distance, would the corresponding professor be able to see her solitary finger?

- pg 4: I do love the line 'eat science'

- pg 5: so at this stage I am confused. Is this a redo of the first chapter? It's following a very similar plot and once again people are battling death blows with no real damage (lowering tension) and I don't have any character buy-in. Why do I care about these characters? Why do their actions matter? What are the larger in-world stakes?

- skimming now because I don't know enough about these characters to care about them fighting

- pg 12: so.... she failed at her first job just to be offered another job of scaring villagers... but we don't get to know why because it is 'need to know?' This isn't enough to capture my interest, unfortunately.

- the end cap buy-in is good, but too late, I think

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Seems like I enjoyed this a bit more than @kais!

Well, this is a big departure from the first chapter, and a lot more engaging. Now I'm on board with the mix of Grek myth and frontier. The shift to urban fantasy-style tech I think makes it work a lot better. There are a lot of good hooks, from the mention of the tech in the capital, to R's partner, to channeling and the batteries. Definitely interested in reading more. In fact I'd even suggest to start with this chapter rather than the last one. It works much better as a hook, as it's not quite as much a generic training/quest plotline.
Looking forward to more!

20 minutes ago, kais said:

If people can't get hurt, why fight?

Good point, but she did run out of her battery partway through, I thought that gave it some extra tension.

21 minutes ago, kais said:

when she lay dying, he gave her a battery and conscripted her into service or something akin.

Also very good point from @kais. I think this would help with the lack of tension I felt at the very end of the chapter.

22 minutes ago, kais said:

In that same vein, hand battles with banter are... hard to do. This one went on too long and I didn't get any tension from it.

I'll agree to up the tension a bit, but I actually enjoyed this fight scene quite a bit. But then, I'm partial to them.


Note while reading:
pg 1: Ah. This is a different character than in the first chapter, isn't it? I was greatly confused for a while.

pg 1: "The glasses—a pair of battered Corvex Model 3 Surveillance Lenses—zeroed in on the diggers."
--Is this the same tech level as in the first chapter?

pg 2: "On the other, she secretly hoped something would come charging in from the horizon and attack."
--But she just faced down a hydra, didn't she?

pg 3: "Eat science, you feather-hatted son of a slontze,"
--That is an awesome line.

I am greatly wondering about the tech levels given the last chapter, however.

pg 4: "R swallowed as panic began to set in."
--I'd like to see this shown rather than told...

pg 5: “Styx!” he swore,
--this bothers me a lot less than some of the culture mixing in the first chapter.

pg 6: "settled into a stance"
--My martial arts training is showing, but what stance? Is he in a squat? Legs wide? Standing tall? Turned to the side? Etc, etc...

pg 6: "“No offense meant.” He charged
at her,"
--This is a great juxtaposition.

pg 7: “Quit dodging and let me stab you, dammit!”
--Lol. This is often what my opponents say when I spar. Punch instead of stab, but same idea.

pg 8: I'm enjoying this fight/banter. Well done.

pg 8: "new patron beasts of the Olympians,"
--Were there old ones?

pg 8: "Besides, you couldn’t brew Channels with fossils; even non-Channelers knew..."
--But aren't they all here to dig up the dragon bones? I guess the academics aren't interested in Channeling.

pg 10: "When he’d hit her on the back of the neck."
--Oh, very nice. I like this.
I do sort of wonder why he's eager to have her help. He seems to have everything in hand.

pg 11: "I don’t suppose any of them mentioned that the White Viper was two people?"
--Nice. Good hook.

pg 14: “Or am I going to have to start off with you?”
--This could be a tenser line. Right now it doesn't have a lot of punch. Could be something like "or do I have to kill you," etc. etc. Right now there's no threat to him simply walking away.

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8 hours ago, Mandamon said:
9 hours ago, kais said:

when she lay dying, he gave her a battery and conscripted her into service or something akin.

Also very good point from @kais. I think this would help with the lack of tension I felt at the very end of the chapter.

I actually wrote this exact scenario initially, but I wasn't quite able to make the ensuing verbal confrontation work. I'll give it another go. 

8 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1: "The glasses—a pair of battered C

9 hours ago, kais said:

I was confused for the first half, as I thought it might be a reworking of chapter one since it had functionally the same plot.

Model 3 Surveillance Lenses—zeroed in on the diggers."
--Is this the same tech level as in the first chapter?

Superior. C tech is top-tier sci-fi kinda stuff. Rifle-bows, not so much.

Thank you both for your critiques! I might send in a revision for next week, depending on what other feedback I get. 

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Overall: I was very confused. I agree with the others that this is a much better leading chapter and it makes me wonder why the prologue/chapter 1 is first. This is so similar it causes confusion, and if the prologue information is important later, would it be better placed closer to where it becomes vital?

 

As I go: 

I am very confused by this opening. Wasn't the hydra dead? Where's the crossbow?

Is this even the same book? 

I have tech whiplash. What happened to the potions? Has there been a major time-jump? 

I can't tell what the first chapter has to do with literally anything in this chapter. I'm so confused. What is going on? Why do I care about enhancement batteries when I was reading about channel potions just a couple page ago? 

What does this R-person look like? Does she have skin? Hair? Eyes? Clothing besides glasses and gloves? Why do I care about her? She doesn't seem anything like the person I was introduced to in the first chapter, and I don't care for her very much right now, since the only emotion she has shown is mild contempt for people who appear to be doing nothing wrong. I think I'm going to imagine her as a nude talking hamster with gloves and high-tech sunglasses from now on. I will always care about talking ham-hams. 

I am unclear why professors on a dig would be wearing inappropriate clothing, but I have now decided they are chinchillas, since I lack any other description to tell me otherwise. Poor things, they really can't handle the heat, but they look so adorable in their button-up shirts. Also I am unclear why the interns seem to be doing the important digging. Maybe they're crows, and very smart. I am lacking so much description, so much context. Is it daytime? Nighttime? I don't remember. Why only one guard?

This knight's description feels like it was lifted verbatim from the first chapter and it is confusing me. Is this a first chapter rewrite? What is going on? The knight is described better and in more detail than any of the other characters so far. Is he the protagonist? He's apparently the only human so far and he really shouldn't be picking on ham-hams like that.  

Multiple pages in and she's finally put on a shirt.  I've decided her fur color must be butterscotch, because it's my favorite, and would look good with the green. 

I still don't understand why they're using Greek gods in modern vernacular epithets. It sounds stilted and awkward to me and drops me out of the story whenever they do.

And I'm afraid I'm not terribly interested in this fight. I'm unclear why they're having it, and I never got invested in R to care about danger to her. I don't understand why the knight is there -- if it's to duel, then why didn't he just say so? This seems like a world where dueling would be an accepted thing. If he came to talk to R's charges, why is he dressed like a recognizable outlaw and sneaking around? Wouldn't it make more sense to just dress in regular clothes and walk up to the dig like a normal person would? The same goes for simply talking R-the-guard-ham-ham. Is there a reason for them to be fighting at all? 

I know more about R's sword and the knight's multiple weapons than I do about her. Are the weapons characters? 

Why is the knight talking to R as if she were in charge of anything? She wouldn't be the ones calling the shots as a mere guard, famous or not (is she famous or just in possession of a nickname? I can't tell).

I'm afraid I have no idea what the knight's plan is and why he's hiring a ham-ham to go scare some people somewhere maybe? Ham-hams are inherently adorable. 

This is a more interesting world and starting scenario than the first chapter, and I would be more likely to keep reading this one than I would have on the first one. 

This has good bones, but I just have no idea what's going on. 

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I had a lot of the same issues as the others. I disagree that this is a better introduction to the world, though. The first chapter wasn't perfect but the foundation was sound and the pacing and world building happened at a really good pace. This chapter is all over the place.

The lack of physical descriptions doesn't bother me much with such an early draft. 5 senses descriptions are literally the last things I add to my own stories. However, the descriptions you do give seem to work against themselves. Why are the 4 profs so inept? Are the hydra's heads all at exactly the same level? Why does it take so long for T to look over the edge where R falls? The logistics of the fight scene don't mesh.

An archaeological dig for dragon bones is probably the coolest concept I've seen in a while (to the point where I'd be 100% OK if this is what your story revolved around) but it's just pushed to the side and made to feel unimportant.

It doesn't feel like the characters understand their own motivations. Like R. In this chapter we learn that she's a hired bodyguard who is great at her job but isn't, who misses the city but doesn't, who doesn't mind being idle but does. She's on the run and should expect an assassin but doesn't, should be prepared but isn't.

The introduction of tech threw me and I never did get my head wrapped around it and I think it's because of what has already been mentioned. Immortality tech? We already have the elixirs that reset anyone to factory settings. Not sure why we need another form of immortality or really why the tech needs to exist except to add yet another genre (steampunk) into the mix?Everything her tech does could be explained with channels or vice versa. 

I was totally on board with a western setting with Greek mythology as the magic system/history, but the steampunk in addition to all that and so early in the story felt like it jumped the shark a bit.

I had to force myself not to skim the fight scene. I feel like you were going for Princess Bride, though, which is cool, and I think you have the writing chops to pull it off in future drafts. In fact, most of this stuff can be cleaned up fairly easily with revision.

The tech was really cool even if it felt out of place. But I have questions. When T puts a battery in R's neck why doesn't she have some sort of HUD that tells her she has a battery again? I don't think she should be surprised by such a thing. Also, if it's that easy to put a battery in is it equally easy to take a battery out?

Also, is this planet either A] flat or B] really really huge? Even with tech aid, the curvature of the earth would prevent you from seeing HUNDREDS of miles.

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Thanks to everyone for their critiques! I won't be submitting this week, but next time I do, I'm thinking it'll be a revision of this chapter that'll take the feedback into account. 

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At first I thought this was a different book. The voice was completely different -- more what I expect from YA. The level of technology also seemed drastically different than what I thought this world had based on the previous chapter. I was for more engaged in this one too. I also didn't have any problems with the blend of the weird west / ancient Greece stuff. I think it is partially because of the voice, but also because this character offers readers a more complete picture of the world where the other seemed to only know a little of it. 

During the fight scene, I got a little lost, both in the action and in the dialogue. By the end of it, I felt like I was missing some important piece that would let me string the whole thing together and see the whole picture. 

On 6/25/2019 at 1:09 PM, kais said:

This one went on too long and I didn't get any tension from it. I'd be more interested if one or both of them couldn't regenerate, or if she was working for the battery from the start so she was instantly vulnerable and then, when she lay dying, he gave her a battery and conscripted her into service or something akin.

 

This is a great suggestion!

 

Also, I'm guessing the dead hyrdra in this section is the one the other girl killed in the first one? I think that the hydra does work as a connector between the two chapters, and maybe could be used more so. 

I'm curious to see where this goes next! 

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On 25/06/2019 at 0:26 AM, JWerner said:

My avatar is this chapter's POV character.

Cool! I was wondering about the avatar pic.

(page 1)

- Umm, okay I'm a bit confused. We've got a live hydra now. I'll go with it and see how it's explained. Not sure it's immediately clear that we're in a different POV.

- You say historians, but sounds like they are archeologists or, yes, paleo...

- I like the specificity of the lens, that sort of detail puts me in the story.

- "plateus" - plateaux

- "a view that went on for miles" - this kind of disproves the 'nary a...' comment. There must be lots of open space, surely.

- The hydra's behaviour struck me as odd. Not so much that it was put off but the light flashing in its eyes, but that it reacts the way it does to what is a fairly subtle stimulus, like it is fairly intelligent. And yet it's treated like an animal, but it can go 'hmph'? Confused: it comes over sentient and intelligent.

(page 2)

- What's the battery thing, what does it enhance? Confusion; the bad kind.

- "it wasn’t often clients were willing to feed her" - this actually seems really unusual.

(page 3)

- What on earth is that super affected language she's using? Ah, I see. Good, I'm glad he didn't fall for that one.

- "Son of a...!" - I really think you need to show the pause, the empty space with something, either ellipsis, like this, or a dash of some sort, not just have an incomplete sentence.

- "would’ve definitely done her in" - grammar, ugh.

- RL - any relation to Robert Langdon? ;) 

- "eat science" - lol, good line.

(page 4)

- "just been sitting atop of" - nope, the point of using 'atop' is that 'of' becomes redundant.

- "paleontologists shouting in confusion" - I'm confused by how far away they are now. I'm not sure they's be able to see this. She's got goggles, but not sure they do.

- "but it wasn’t fast enough to numb each wound" - this feels inconsistent, since it was said that the wounds healed faster than they happened.

- "It was her last Enhancement battery" - I like that 'magic' has a cost, has limitations, BUT, this is a completely different system from the drinking of potions in the first submission. It confusing, I think. We haven't had the first magic system established yet, and now we have a second one.

- "pulled her own out" - her own what? Not at all clear.

(page 5)

- "He pointed his own..." - His own what? What on earth is going on? I have no idea.

- "a typical gesture of challenge" - Really?

- "she’d strapped beneath her shirt to her stomach" - grammar: clause order, readability, flow, smoothness, etc.

- "falling a good ten feet" - why?

- "recover a bit of stamina" - I would say her stamina is long gone, I think it is to do with instant energy at this point. I would say stamina is built up over hours.

(page 6)

- There's a lot of fighting now, which I'm not all the invested in, although, to credit it, it's at least interspersed with banter, which improves the situation. I just don't know how much I care about the outcome of this fight, because I know very little about R.

(page 7)

- There's no way this guy is still wearing his hat, and yet he's flicking at the feather? He just fell ten feet and landed on his chull (I think).

- "Hah!" - Ooh, boy. This is going towards flat out comedy, but the quit dodging is a good line, so let's call it 'uneven' and leave it at that.

- "we'll happily vacate" - really? Huh.

- "Ha!" - I wish she'd stop doing that. It makes me think The Princess Bride or Three Amigos, which in turn makes me wish I was reading / watching one of those.

(page 8)

- "come and do some work for me" - if this fight turns out to be pointless and totally avoidable I will not be happy.

- "There were twelve Channels" - The next four lines are pretty much unintelligible. You've not set up the world at all, so the Olympian thing distracts me, wondering what that is. I think it's the first mention of gods(?), first mention of patron beasts (I'm more confident of that). Have we heard about dragons before? Not sure we have.

- Why is her conclusion 'premature'? She can't know this. She might be right. I would drop this word.

- "slashing it horizontally to regain space" - don't understand this

(page 9)

- "stepping a good way’s back" - Nope. The narrative is not consistent. There is plenty of narrative that does not adopt the western tone, so you can't just drop in some when you feel like it. The narrative needs to be consistent, and for the love of G don't have it in that western vernacular, a little of that stuff goes a loooooong way.

- "Enhancement batteries" - this is good, this is a strong moment because it was foreshadowed. This is probably the strongest moment of the fight. 

- "glowy lights" - lol

(page 10)

- "one of his knives were was missing" - I've been trying not to comment on grammar because I just don't have time, but really, I can't let this go.

- "there was a brand- new battery installed" - okay, I like that: that's sneaky and again, foreshadowed.

- I don't understand T's big, rambling treatise on... something. It's all over the place.

(page 11)

- You tell me how to feel about the M/Hs, but you don't tell me what they are. Who runs them? Are they the hand of an overbearing authority? Are the evil raiders? What are they? I need context, how they fit into the world.

- Now you're telling me about the W/V, it's shallow. T says that the papers say that R is formidable. I want to see that, not be told it. She was not particularly awesome in the fight, so I'm not feeling it.

- 'W/V was two people' - now that's interesting.

(page 12)

- Confused. I don't think it's clearly explained that the M/H are after R. With people speaking in a rambling way, it's harder to get a proper understanding of what they are saying.

- "flat, morose gaze he was now using seemed to pierce through her" - Imprecise phrasing like this is just a big fat turn off. Don't be vague, be definite, be precise. Does it pierce her or not. If she's not sure, how am I supposed to be? Search your novel for 'seemed', 'might', 'maybe', 'perhaps', 'possibly' and DELETE THEM ALL!!

- It's not been explained what a clipper is. Don't know, so I just ignore those references.

- "She had no problem with killing people, so long as they deserved it." - Again, you are TELLING me she's badass. 

- "You could have stopped them" - I don't believe this for a single nanosecond.

- The Registry has not been explained. I don't know what it is.

Overall

I'm willing to set aside any disbelief at the cultural mash-up, but I'm frustrated at all the telling that's going on. The arc of the chapters has been pretty similar. Also, what was the point of the first chapter if R is the M/C protagonist? I don't think the character building is up to scratch. I don't feel anything for R. She casually says killing bad people is okay. I'm going to say it, that's lazy characterisation. True involvement and interest comes from the shades of grey that challenge characters.

There are a lot of things that are not explained, that's another turn-off. I see this again and again and again on here, novels that try to spill out the entire plot in the first two or three chapters, and that cannot wait to hop from POV to POV to POV. IMO, it's essential to establish reader engagement with a (main) character before launching into a lot of plot detail that I am not going to care about, because I don't care about anybody in the story, yet.

Establishing character is not easy, it's not a cursory physical description, it's not a big lump of telling us someone is mean and formidable (yawn). I listened to an excellent Empire podcast (UK movie magazine) yesterday which had an interview with Eddie Marsan (excellent British character actor: Lestrade in Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes). He said that "characters have to be paradoxical, have to have conflicting elements to make them real". That struck a real chord with me, and helped to underline me feelings about character: character is everything, without character (in a story) you have nothing. And conflict does not mean fighting, it's personal and/or internal conflict. I experience the story through the writer's characters, if I'm not invested in them, not amount of plot, setting or action is going to interest me.

Sorry, you've caught me in full rant mode, but I feel like I've read so much recently where character is lacking (critted novel in my IRL group, listening to critique podcast, etc.).

<R>

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Posted (edited)

On 6/28/2019 at 8:57 PM, hawkedup said:

but the steampunk in addition to all that and so early in the story felt like it jumped the shark a bit.

May I ask what steampunk you're reading? Because steampunk usually has steam, pistons, gears, etc. Technology that evokes the Industrial Revolution. Batteries going in necks to fuel superhuman abilities is something I pulled from cyberpunk. 

On 6/30/2019 at 0:30 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I think that the hydra does work as a connector between the two chapters, and maybe could be used more so. 

That was the idea (and it's not the same hydra), but it's not all that particularly significant. It's gone in the revision.

22 hours ago, Robinski said:

any relation to Robert Langdon? ;) 

Nope. Never read those. I just thought the name sounded cool. 

22 hours ago, Robinski said:

We haven't had the first magic system established yet, and now we have a second one.

It's not magical, but it is indeed a system. I'm trying my best to clear up any confusion between the two in the revision.

Thank you @shatteredsmooth and @Robinski for your critiques! Hopefully, you'll find the revision an improvement. Right now, I'm behind on my critiques (I have done two for last week and two for this week) and hope to have everything in by Friday to justify my re-submission.

 

Edited by JWerner
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1 hour ago, JWerner said:

May I ask what steampunk you're reading? Because steampunk usually has steam, pistons, gears, etc. Technology that evokes the Industrial Revolution. Batteries going in necks to fuel superhuman abilities is something I pulled from cyberpunk. 

Okay? Hairs split. Cool. No less shark jumpy, though. 

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1 hour ago, JWerner said:
22 hours ago, Robinski said:

any relation to Robert Langdon? ;) 

Nope. Never read those. I just thought the name sounded cool.

Yeah, sorry. That was a cheap shot, but that name always stands out for me now (scarred for life <shudder>). It's a strong name, which is why it works, no doubt.

1 hour ago, JWerner said:

and it's not the same hydra

Huh, I assumed it was too.

1 hour ago, JWerner said:

It's not magical, but it is indeed a system. I'm trying my best to clear up any confusion between the two in the revision.

Yeah, sorry, I should have put 'magic' in quotes.

 

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

Okay? Hairs split. Cool. No less shark jumpy, though. 

I'd argue that it's not hair-splitting, as steampunk and cyberpunk are two different sub-genres of sci-fi with entirely different aesthetics (Industrial Revolution v. advanced futuristic technology). Also, I apologize if I came across as insulting in that post (I should have worded it differently), that was not my intention; I am genuinely curious as to what kinds of steampunk you have read that you find similar to what I wrote. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

Yeah, sorry. That was a cheap shot,

Nothing to apologize for; I didn't interpret it as any kind of shot. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

Yeah, sorry, I should have put 'magic' in quotes.

Again, nothing to apologize for. I just wanted to clarify.

Edited by JWerner
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