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The Kraken's Daughter

20190701-The Kraken's Daughter-The Oneirophage Part 2-4500 (V)

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This is the comment/critique thread for the second and final part of my heroic fantasy novelette, "The Oneirophage." In Part 1, Adrilinda set out to track down a sea monster so that she could get her hands on the materials she needs to save her lover from a magical affliction. She's now on board a ship headed for the place where the creature was discovered...but not everyone agrees on what to do when they get there.

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Overall

I think there is a very excellent adventure story in here. However the short reads more like a living outline that needs filling in. The events are there but the world building, the emotion, the interpersonal interactions are all heavily glossed over, to the point where I cannot gain any buy-in. I want more. More dialogue, more action, more thoughts, more reactions, more world. I think you have enough here for a novella, easily, if you put some flesh on the good bones of the story.

 

As I go

- After all that description and wonder, I'd like more reaction to the harpooning

- We have to kill it! We haven’t got a choice anymore - I don't understand this. Haven't they already harpooned it? It's likely going to die now anyway so this line is confusing

- “Someone once told me that a mage’s rings protected him from ghosts and the Folk of a Thousand Names.” - I'm more confused. This is a short story but it has a few too many elements. It's also pretty late in the game to be introducing more Large Named Magic Things. If the arc is to kill the serpent and heal the brother (?), then we are on track. If it's not, I've gotten lost along the way

- pg 10: another quest? This is hard because I didn't really have buy-in for the first one, nor did I get a lot of tension from the reemergence of the brother. Stakes are missing and it's making it difficult to care about the characters and their journey. I think this might be a novella, not a short story. It needs time to breathe and emote and develop

- pg 11: wait, the room is another room? Huh?

- and J is... not J but I don't know who J is so this gotcha falls flat

- why does she care so much about T's face brand? There hasn't been enough time in the story for them to befriend each other

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Pretty much the same reaction as @kais for this one.

Overall, this was really well written, and I wanted to like it more than I did. I think the biggest problem I had is that there is too much crammed into this novelette. The first two thirds are all about the sea monster, and we really don't get anything about the title of the story, or about K. Then we don't spend enough time with K and A to make their triumph feel worth it. I was actually expecting more to happen between A and the captain than with her husband (or fiancee? Not sure which).
I almost want this to either be:
--A story this length about A's quest to find and kill the sea monster, and ends when she gets the parts to free K. We never see K.
--A story twice as long as this one, where the first half is all about the sea monster so we get enough buildup, but also have good background on K and the O-phage, and then the second half is all about the long, grueling fight to get K back.
Right now, it's a little of both, which means there isn't enough time to develop the tension needed for either part. I really want to see more of this story!

Notes while reading:
pg 1: ah, glad we're starting off withe the sea serpent. I seem to recall leaving off while they were still only starting to search.

pg 2: "R’s joy had turned to outrage."
--I thought everyone was in on the "let's kill the thing and sell it" plan?

pg 3: "If it fled, she would be safe. But K would be doomed."
--that's a pretty quick switch from doing everything she can to find it, to nearly giving up.

pg 4: "Somehow managing to keep a steady hand despite the bucking ship, he wrote the rune for “sight” on each eyelid."
--first, ow, and second, I doubt he got anywhere near the right rune with the ship bucking.

pg 4: "No one else moved until the inanimate bulk of the sea serpent floated to the surface."
--Ah. I was actually expecting a little more of a fight.

pg 5: “You never thought you’d adjust to shipboard life so quickly, did you?”
--I know part of this is WRS (weekly reader syndrome) since we started halfway through, but the time on the ship feels pretty short overall. I was honestly expecting more of a chase for the McGuffin.

pg 5: “I wish it could have gone differently.”
--how? Didn't she get the exact thing she was searching for?

pg 5: "He’d been furious at the disloyal crewmen, but with her he’d just seemed disappointed."
--ok, I was somehow under the impression the captain knew about the hunt too. I don't have all the character names down because we haven't spent a whole lot of time with them.

pg 6: "leaving K prey to the oneirophage"
--Ah, I think I've identified one of my concerns. The story is titled after this, but this is (I think) the first time the O-phage has been mentioned. Up until now it's all been about the sea serpent, and my sense of the arc of the story was off because of it. I was expecting some sort of conclusion with the hunt, but it was sort of anti-climactic. Now we come to the real object of the story, but it's not built up much.

pg 8: There's a lot of information on this page, but none of it is really relevant to the story, especially one this short.

pg 9: “Because I’m coming with you.”
--interesting

pg 11: Hm. Lots of planning about how to attack the phage, which sort of slows down the tension. I would have though some of this would be figured out by now.

pg 13: "I should have known,”
--Uh, yeah. I'm beginning to see why he got trapped in the first place.

pg 15: "and it dissolved into the same kind of mist"
--this is also sort of anti-climactic.


 

 

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I don't have a lot to say that @kais and @Mandamon haven't already covered. I agree that there is just a lot going on here, and so I feel like none of it gets the amount of "on-screen" time it deserves. From the first section, I was also expecting the sea serpent to be most of the resolution of this section as well. Overall, my reaction to this section is much like my reaction to the first -- It's not bad by any stretch, technically it's written well, and the descriptions and flow are good, but neither did it really capture my interest. 

There was good tension with the fight to kill the monster, but like last time, the extreme choppiness of the scenes and the large time jumps prevented that tension from carrying over into any of the other parts of the story. Once again, I felt like I was reading loosely connected vignettes instead of a cohesive story. 

The fight with the dream monster was good and tense and well laid out, but once again, the time skips robbed the rest of the story of that energy. 

The ending is sweet, but felt a little flat to me. 

 

 

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I'm keen to see how this turns out :)

(page 1)

- Oh, we're right there with the monster! (Goes back to last week's submission...) Ah, yes, this is quite jarring. A was just talking to one of the crew and suddenly the monster is right in front of her. The line that R says sounds more like the opening of this section. Why would he shout this when he does if everyone is standing on the deck looking at the thing? The order is off here, I think.

- And then you tell me they've been waiting for five days, but that loses any impact, doesn't convey any ennui, any dragging of time because the action has already passed that point. I'm not keen on how his first page of the submission is arranged.

- I do like the line about changing the world, and I am reminded again how much I enjoy the quality of your writing. I think it flows very nicely, and there is almost nothing that trips me up in the way of grammar, phrasing, word choice, etc.

(page 2)

- I'm confused by the action around the shooting. The first shot is fine, but then there is a gap of several seconds before P turns his harpoon to bear. Does he fire it? There's no indication. Also, how do the harpoon's work? In more modern times, I think they are powered in some way, where in the past they were simply hand-held, I think. Was there are time in between when they were spring-loaded, and is that what is happening here? Because  from my recollection this is a 'low tech' fantasy setting.

- Then there are the characters. To some extent this will be Weekly Reader Syndrome (WRS) as we call it on RE, i.e. I kind of forget who H is and his motivation, but I would remember if I was reading this straight through, I think, so it's fine.

(page 3)

- "disappearing from view" - yeah, this happens way to late after it being short, IMO. I struggle to believe it would take so long for the monster to disperse after the first harpoon goes in.

- Ah, my first language issue: I'm really not sure 'ambivalence' is the right word for what she's feeling in that moment. She's conflicted (or similar), is she not?

- Also, not keen on the water 'rushing'. I think there are better words to describe the sea, like 'surge', for example.

- 'spilled' is rather tame. I'm not really feeling the threat and the full extent of the drama here, I think.

- and 'bruised' struck me as an odd word. Surely the bruises will not develop until the next day. I feel that a more immediately word would be more compelling.

(page 4)

- Hang on: logistical issue. Harpoons usually have ropes attached in order to catch/slow down/tire out the target, and you referred to the rope paying out of the barrel when T fired the first shot. If the harpoon stays in the beast, it would start hauling the ship around, but I don't believe from the description that this is happening.

- H shouts that he's hit it, but he doesn't fire the harpoon after lunging towards it.

- A tap is real very little force, barely noticeable. I'm thinking it must surely have been more than that.

- I like that you have her suffering from sea legs. Nice touch of detail that sticks me right into the scene. I've been there!

(page 5)

- I get the point of R being 'disappointed', but it's really quite a weak word.

(page 6)

- There are some nice fine details on this page in relation to the ceremony/rite that make me feel connected with the world. The casual mention of an empire that does not feature and has no relevance, but speaks to a heritage and a richness in world.

(page 7)

- There are quite a few scene breaks, and the scenes are short enough that those breaks are a mite distracting. Not sure there's anything to be done about it, but you have the comment anyway!

(page 12)

- I'm surprised neither A or K is questioning the presence of J, since no one else has been visible to them in this world/state of being.

(page 14)

- "Bit wordy in place, such as "was the only way to tell whether theory matched up with reality", compared to "was the only test for the theory", for example.

-  Hmm where did this shield come from? Nothing was said about anything else taken by A apart from the sac and the two ribs. This feels like cheating.

(page 15)

- "to keep the o from striking at her from above" - wording: the shield won't prevent the creature from striking, it's there to guard again the blow.

- "it dissolved into the same kind of mist to which such monsters" - grammar here. I feel as if 'to which' should be replaced with 'that', i.e. 'into the same kind... that such monster'.

(page 16)

- "The sigh succeeded where the rustling and fidgeting had failed." - At the risk of blowing smoke, I'm going to belabour this point. I really enjoy your prose. More often than not it is just, right: simple, on point and a pleasure to read.

(page 17)

- The last line completely confused me. "went in"? I was waiting for the twist, the coupe be gras, the final flourish, and it didn't come. I was waiting for that resounding clash of the unexpected to such a degree that I misread 'went in' twice, trying to shape it into something fantastical. Went into his body? Went into his mind to possess him after her being the demon all along? In my perplexed state I spool back to try and find the end of the story, the crowning moment, because it can't be a simple and straightforward as them killing the monster... can it?

Apparently it can. I feel like this is the thing that lets the story down, that the ending is too simple, too comfortable. Maybe the fact that I'm surprised by this indicates some kind of wizardly subversion or the modern trope of nothing is what it seems. Is 'They all live happily ever after' back in again and nobody told me?

I'm sorry to be flippant, but I do that only to try and get across my surprise, and the nagging feeling of anticlimax. I don't take back anything I said about my enjoyment at reading the story, which I though was well written, most certainly, but I'm left trying to decide if I'm disappointed or not. I will be very interested now to read the others reactions to the story, but thank you for sharing it with us, and I will be more than pleased to read other writing of yours in the future :) 

<R>

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On 02/07/2019 at 4:54 PM, kais said:

the emotion, the interpersonal interactions are all heavily glossed over, to the point where I cannot gain any buy-in. I want more. More dialogue, more action, more thoughts, more reactions, more world. I think you have enough here for a novella, easily, if you put some flesh on the good bones of the story.

Agree.

 

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Mechanically, this is all well and good. I'm gonna agree though that I feel like this is in dire need of expansion for the sake of fleshing out the characters. Part 2 suffers from sudden, whiplash-inducing jumps in time and space that leave me confused. Why don't we get to see A harvesting the sea monster? Did nothing important happen on her journey home? I want to read about those parts more than I do anything about the oneirophage, which might be a consequence of the fact that you started with A's journey and left out K. I also think it wraps a bit too neatly; A didn't lose anything in her quest, there were no consequences. The lack of any kind of twist—which is something that short fiction often benefits from, in my experience—also left me wanting. 

Other than that, I think you've done a great job with sensory detail—the world is pretty easy to picture—and there's enough interesting ideas (the monster, the phage, A) for you to expand on upon. Please do so!

Minute amount of notes below:

(pg. 3):

-A stumbled backward, bruised the backs of her thighs against a crate.—I'd replace 'bruised' with a different verb that suggests more immediacy. I also think a gerund would not go amiss.

(pg. 5):

-“Are you in need of a bodyguard?”—I'm not sure I buy that they are this close that T would offer herself as a bodyguard to A.

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1)
- "The monster looked as though the gods had fashioned it from the pure silver and then breathed life into it." There's a drop word here, but I love this. 
- Your description of the monster is functional, but I kinda feel like A after I read it. She thinks about how past descriptions don't do it justice and with your description I don't get the "sheer magnificence" of the monster.
- I'd also like some more build up. I've been watching a lot of kaiju movies lately and one of the things that really makes those movies work is that we see the effects of the monster before the monster itself and I think that might help here.

2)
- It's not so much that A looks away when the harpoon gun fires that bothers me as I think what happens next would be more poignant if she (and therefore the reader) sees it with her own eyes.

3/4)
- Is it just me or is the ship not being affected enough by what is happening? Aren't they tethered to the monster? How can anyone be standing unaided or take time to write death runes on someone's eyes (that is a good in world detail, though). 
- "After a moment of fumbling, she pivoted the gun and fired." It it really that easy?

5)
- Is the tension really over that quickly?
- I hope T reacts more to the traitor run than this.

6)
- Oops. I was under the impression that the O was the sea creature this whole time. Did I miss something?
- "The oil needs to be decanted into a brass lantern." This is great. So specific and real. And it's nice to see something other than wine decanted.

7/8)
- The time jumps are a bit jarring.
- I find myself wanting to skim. Changing focus this late in the short story feels more like losing focus. I feel like the story I signed up for has been told and now I'm getting something akin to a sequel or epilogue.
- Luckily, this will be an easy fix. Prescription: Go back to part one and make it known right away that this is the story and the sea monster is just the first obstacle.

9)
- “Because I’m coming with you.” I like this curve ball a lot.
- Um. Confused. Did they already do the spell? I'm assuming so since we have a TAR thing going. Again, why did we skip an important moment?

10)
- It doesn't seem like A going with K was as big of a deal as I thought. It just... is.

11)
- I'm forcing myself not to skim. At this point you've made some (probably unconscious) promises to the reader and they aren't good ones. 1) No matter what is about to happen I know it will probably work out with little tension and 2) you'll probably time jump over the good stuff.

13) 
- "His arms stretched and flexed in places where humans had no joints, and more tentacle-like limbs extruded themselves from his torso. His facial features pinched inward, nose and mouth drawing out into a proboscis." Nice! Creepy.
- This information about the O should've been given to us way sooner.

14)
- "dreamstuff" This word pulled me out of the narrative completely.
- Are they in any actual danger? Is this like TAR in Wheel of Time where you can be hurt or killed? I don't know enough to know if I should worry.

15)
- I'm disappointed by this resolution. There's so much potential here for some real drama and mind stormery but it just doesn't come through. I never felt like the characters were ever in any real danger, and I'm wondering what all the build up was for.

17)
- So I'm left feeling unfulfilled. It reminds me of the time I tried to read a collection of cozy mysteries. 


Overall:
Once again it seems like you have all the big plot points down and the actual structure of the story is as always spot on. There's even some good character building, but it's lacking payoff both character and plot wise. A lot of this stems from a lack of tension. I never really feel like anyone is in real danger and nothing significant really seems to happen to any of the characters--barring a single event and that was T's traitor rune. Also some of the moments you build up to are skimmed or outright skipped. The slaying of the monster and the reunion between A and K for example.

I think the first thing you should look at is where you give us important information and how it's given. Right now the two biggest pieces of information are: In Part 1 it's why A is searching for the sea monster. This isn't given to us until page 10 if I remember correctly. And in Part 2 it's information about the O, which doesn't come until page 13, AFTER we have already met the O.

Your writing is clean and concise. A lot of potential here, but it feels the outline of a much larger story.

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