Ookla the Partitioner

Reading Excuses - 11/25/19 - aeromancer - Stranger in a Foreign Land Pt.2 (V,G) - 5012

14 posts in this topic

This was meant to be a two-part submission, but the length got away from me. Not in the 'two thousand extra words so I can't cram it into one submission' sense, in the 'five thousand this week and possibly six thousand next week' sense. I'm still not quite sure how I managed that, I didn't think I was *that* bad at guessing story length. 'Stranger in a Foreign Land' is a low fantasy setting.  I had a curious idea for a setting and protagonist, and this is my first attempt at it, recycling an old world to do it in. Another reminder in case you forgot - this world is set nocturnally. Include in that is nocturnal vision. Feedback I'm looking for is how the story progressed. There were also quite a few details embedded, so I'm also looking for feedback in regards to the worldbuilding here. Hopefully to be concluded in Part III.
 
A note on Black Bane: The plant is known as (Black) Henbane, also known as Stinking Nightshade (yellow flower, back center), the official name is hyoscymaus niger. It's one of the less deadly members of the Nightshade family, but quite hallucinogenic. Historians believe this is the more likely hallucinogen consumed by Viking berserkers, rather than the traditionally accepted Fly Agaric (red cap with white spots) as the accounts are slightly better for the symptoms caused by Black Henbane.
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Overall:

- I like the story's atmosphere and it's interesting.

- Add more showing, reduce dialog.

- Edit and tighten the writing, eliminate extra words and make it snappier

 

Page 2: how is Z going to identify himself as a Seeker by talking to the alchemist? Is it part of the magic or is it obvious in their mannerisms?

P.3: Firevein - cool word!

In general, some of the writing feels like telling even though it's not telling as such. And you could be showing in the same number of words. For example, in pg. 4, the alchemist is instructing P. to find the relaxant by describing it through dialog. This feels like telling. Instead, you could do this: "the alchemist pointed a long red claw of a nail to the table (note characterization of alchemist), making Z and P turn to look. There, a blue swirl of liquid shone mysteriously inside a tall bottle tagged [insert name here]. Inside the blue swirl, tiny dots of light flowed around buffeted by an impossible current." This allows you to show the stuff to readers without the telling implied by dialog. Switch from dialog to graphical visuals as often as you can to create variation, especially when you have something worth showing off. Make characters point at stuff and then zoom on that stuff to show it to readers.

Trim the dialog by removing inessential words. For instance in pg. 4, instead of “I don’t mind you waiting in the front, but you can leave and come back if you want to.”, you could have "wait out front or return later." While in real dialog you get a lot of filler, in stories it's best to have short and snappy sentences. Or even better, show the alchemist closing shop while telling the two visitors to return in 10 minutes. Then Z can say directly "we'll wait out front." Even if you decided to dramatize/show a scene, you can summarize portions of it, use action instead of dialog, show visuals instead of dialog - in general make dynamic switches where a different writing tool can help you send the point across just as well. You know where Kelsier meets Preservation, he could've told him "i am very upset with you." What he did was way more powerful "he decked the man." Dialog is not always the better option. Experiment with tools.

Is the POV close 3rd? Perhaps you can make it closer by showing Z's reactions to what's going on because right now there's a bit of distance between him and the reader - I can't spot where it's coming from.

Pg. 6: once the alchemist returns, Z is talking to her directly, no more whispering and using Tempter. Is that a continuity error?

Pg. 6 last paragraph: "P. sighed" needs to be in a new paragraph since it's a different character performing the action.

Edit and streamline. For example pg.8 “Alcohol?” P. blinked, surprise, then noticed Z. was offering him the vial that he’d bought. “No, I don’t drink on job. And stop trying to change the subject!” can be written as "P. blinked surprised as Z. offered him the vial. "I don't drink on the job. Don't try to change the subject!""

Pg. 9: using curiosity as a superpower is very cool but I don't get how curiosity enables Z to make deductions. The deduction isn't very obvious because you haven't foreshadowed his conclusion by showing the tower or the place where they are. Instead of feeling like an 'of course!' moment, it feels improvised. I don't follow the logic of the deduction. Okay, the hiding would be close, sure, but why the tower, what makes it good for something illegal and how did Z know it must be something illegal? If this curiosity power offers exceptional deduction abilities, I need to follow the logic. If it enables something like clairvoyance, i need to know that Z sees images.

Pg. 11: conscious should be conscience

Pg. 12: before they're attacked, you could create some tension by having them speak quietly and not much, stop to listen, hold their breath, show the place and make it ominous etc. Rise stakes and tension with the monsters too, e.g. "their rabid bite could turn a person insane." Make me fear for the protag.

Pg. 13: motivations and character observations about each other don't need to be included in on-the-nose dialog. You can keep them internalized as close POV thoughts or show them through actions. For example, you can say "Z didn't mean to complain but that cut had been close. "I'd be more careful with that sword," he told the man, "if you want the customer alive and able to pay you."

Pg. 13: if Z is protected against harm like he says, why is he complaining/worried? It makes him sound a bit fussy. Now it's too late for me to fear for him especially if I didn't fear before the kerfuffle. 

Pg. 14: why is P assuming Z hates whitchbeasts? It feels like it's only to give him an occasion to explain the conflict with the witch. But that conflict can be explained well as Z's inner thoughts in a closer POV. E.g. "the witch's presence nearby made Z's skin twitch and crinkle in distaste. The abomination used moonlight to twist life itself, spawning more dark creatures." You don't have to have Z explaining this to P, who presumably already knows about it since he lives in the same world.

Pg. 14: P's standpoint that witches don't distort life feels like a strawman in the presence of monstrous rats who attack people, especially after said rats tried to kill him.

Pg.15: If T. is an abomination and Z has such strong opinions on him, how come he's willing to adopt T as a pet? Normally people aren't so tolerant. Unless there's a story that motivates his choice.

Pg. 18: Z's thoughts during battle are long, orderly sentences. Write shorter, choppier sentences to heighten tension. Also he's guessing what his new partner wants him to do, which is improbable. More likely he'd think the man set him up for a trap or would just get scared.

Pg. 19: T is definitely my favorite character.

Pg.20: I still have trouble visualizing how everyone looks like.

Hope this helps, happy to answer questions.

Edited by Lightbearer
typos
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2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Page 2: how is Z going to identify himself as a Seeker by talking to the alchemist? Is it part of the magic or is it obvious in their mannerisms?

Z's mannerisms are supposed to be unique. For instance, he does in fact identify himself as a Seeker at the end by wishing G. 'Godspeed', something only Seekers say. G just fails to notice.

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 6: once the alchemist returns, Z is talking to her directly, no more whispering and using Tempter. Is that a continuity error?

No, Z's just annoyed at P for complaining about the little amount he did speak, so he opted to not keep his mouth shut. Probably should put that in.

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

In general, some of the writing feels like telling even though it's not telling as suck. And you could be showing in the same number of words. For example, in pg. 4, the alchemist is instructing P. to find the relaxant by describing it through dialog. This feels like telling. Instead, you could do this: "the alchemist pointed a long red claw of a nail to the table (note characterization of alchemist), making Z and P turn to look. There, a blue swirl of liquid shone mysteriously inside a tall bottle tagged [insert name here]. Inside the blue swirl, tiny dots of light flowed around buffeted by an impossible current." This allows you to show the stuff to readers without the telling implied by dialog. Switch from dialog to graphical visuals as often as you can to create variation, especially when you have something worth showing off. Make characters point at stuff and then zoom on that stuff to show it to readers.

I assume you mean 'telling as such', and not commenting on what the quality of my writing isn't. In general, I think you make some very good points here, though I think this might be a difference in our perceptions - I don't learn using visuals, I learn through descriptions and quantifying, so my first instinct is always to have precise description. In general, I think this is a good point and a large part of this (and Part 1 as well!) needs to be edited as such.

This exact scenario, I'm going to have to disagree with you on. True, it would lend more for the vial to be mysteriously described, but it would be a very poor chemist to gesture to a table of different vials and just say 'that one'. G's character is such to describe the vial so there can be no mistaking it, and once that's done, it'd be redundant to describe it again in narrative, unless the bottle truly had a fantastic appearance (which it doesn't). What you described sounds like some kind of lightning enchantment potion. Relaxant is literally just something to completely depress extreme emotions. (Foreshadowing?)

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 9: using curiosity as a superpower is very cool but I don't get how curiosity enables Z to make deductions. The deduction isn't very obvious because you haven't foreshadowed his conclusion by showing the tower or the place where they are. Instead of feeling like an 'of course!' moment, it feels improvised. I don't follow the logic of the deduction. Okay, the hiding would be close, sure, but why the tower, what makes it good for something illegal and how did Z know it must be something illegal? If this curiosity power offers exceptional deduction abilities, I need to follow the logic. If it enables something like clairvoyance, i need to know that Z sees images.

Hmm. It's not exactly a 'superpower' - T. can only replicate human emotions, he can't create 'super versions' of them. It's more akin to a single-minded focus on solving a problem, and the real deduction has nothing to do with the clock tower - it's the fact that the key  a ) is a spare key stashed by S. and b ) unlocks somewhere nearby, neither of which required knowledge on Z's part that the clock tower was there. I can throw it in to a description earlier, if you think its necessary. The 'illegal' thing does need some more explaining. (The idea is that S. wouldn't have bolted for something legal.)

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 12: before they're attacked, you could create some tension by having them speak quietly and not much, stop to listen, hold their breath, show the place and make it ominous etc. Rise stakes and tension with the monsters too, e.g. "their rabid bite could turn a person insane." Make me fear for the protag.

I think I'd agree with this advice if I genuinely intended for the rats to be threatening. But they aren't supposed to be threatening, honestly, they're just a few mobs meant to let P. show off. The rats aren't supposed to be scary, just kind of a notice saying 'this is no longer safe territory'. But not like an 'in-your-face' notice. That's the centipede's job.

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 14: why is P assuming Z hates whitchbeasts? It feels like it's only to give him an occasion to explain the conflict with the witch. But that conflict can be explained well as Z's inner thoughts in a closer POV. E.g. "the witch's presence nearby made Z's skin twitch and crinkle in distaste. The abomination used moonlight to twist life itself, spawning more dark creatures." You don't have to have Z explaining this to P, who presumably already knows about it since he lives in the same world.

Pg.15: If T. is an abomination and Z has such strong opinions on him, how come he's willing to adopt T as a pet? Normally people aren't so tolerant. Unless there's a story that motivates his choice.

Z. refers to them as 'abominations that should not exist', though looking back I suppose it could be inferred he was just talking about the rats. And I don't want the narrative to characterize them as dark, tainted creatures - the narrative is definitive and would determine which of the two of them is right, even if it was just thoughts. I'd have to do first person to give the narrative a definitive bias before I'd do something like that.

About T and Z's relationship - it'll get brought up a bit more in the third part. (T's origin is very weird, if you think it'll help I can give you the condensed version.) Z's tolerance of him is a contradiction of sorts - he hates the process involved in creating T., but, as he says, that doesn't invalidate the fact that T. is a living, breathing, creature. It's a bit odd, yes, but weirder friendships have happened. (Just to clarify, they are friends, most of Z's lines about how he's stuck with T., while true, aren't said out of malice.)

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 18: Z's thoughts during battle are long, orderly sentences. Write shorter, choppier sentences to heighten tension. Also he's guessing what his new partner wants him to do, which is improbable. More likely he'd think the man set him up for a trap or would just get scared.

Choppier sentences, can do. His reaction of reading the situation and not panicking does makes a bit of sense. Z. is actually a combat veteran, as in he's seen a lot of battles, and was actually in a few, though his version of being in a battle is more or less 'stand around uselessly while competent people did stuff'. Also, like Z. said in Part 1, Seekers do not get scared. ("Hhh!")

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 19: T is definitely my favorite character.

I'm kind of surprised by this, to be honest, T. seems to be liked by everyone. A creature that sense emotions and has pretty much no filter when it comes to talking about them is more or less a nightmare for me.

2 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg.20: I still have trouble visualizing how everyone looks like.

That makes sense, I haven't really described them.

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In general, everything readers don't know and is essential for characterization or plot should be reflected in the story somehow. If Z is a combat veteran, put two sentences at the very beginning to frame him as such. E.g. "he knew what sort the brightwolf before him was, he fought alongside them 8 years back in the Battle of Shatterhill. That memory made him scratch the wound on his back without thinking." or something.

58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

Z's mannerisms are supposed to be unique.

  • I didn't catch it from the story
58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

I assume you mean 'telling as such',

Yes, suck was a typo and I corrected it.

58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

This exact scenario, I'm going to have to disagree with you on

I was giving an example to illustrate what I mean by showing. My point is, use variation between writing devices and remember many readers want to see the cool stuff.

58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

I think I'd agree with this advice if I genuinely intended for the rats to be threatening. But they aren't supposed to be threatening, honestly, they're just a few mobs meant to let P. show off. The rats aren't supposed to be scary, just kind of a notice saying 'this is no longer safe territory'. But not like an 'in-your-face' notice. That's the centipede's job

Then make the contrast between scenes more stark. Let P and Z be extra casual about the rats, maybe even scare them off. Then heighten tension with the centipede.

58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

About T and Z's relationship (Just to clarify, they are friends, most of Z's lines about how he's stuck with T., while true, aren't said out of malice.

I can tell they're friends. If other beta readers bring it up, you should consider putting their background story in the story. Having it here doesn't help the story itself.

58 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

I'm kind of surprised by this, to be honest, T. seems to be liked by everyone. A creature that sense emotions and has pretty much no filter when it comes to talking about them is more or less a nightmare for me.

He's a source of chaos but a very honest one. He's fun and a real plot maker. Also he's likely small and cute and everybody likes dragons.

Edited by Lightbearer
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I think @Lightbringer makes a lot of good points about the writing and structure. I fully agree with putting more description and cutting down on some of the overlong dialogue and telling. It will make this snappier and easier to read.

This section was more entertaining than the first part, as it's more of a quest storyline.  I'm getting a better feel for Z, as he seems to have a wide-eyed curiosity about the world but doesn't always know what he's getting into. I've just starting playing the Witcher games and this reminds me a lot of that, especially with the potions and fighting strange monsters.

15 hours ago, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 19: T is definitely my favorite character.

Very much agree. T is a great character to interject ruthless honesty. If you've read Saga, he acts like Lying Cat, who is also a source of both comedy and great emotion.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: This is starting out more exciting and concise than the first part.

pg 3: "Z’s voice was barely over a whisper."
--Aside from P telling him not to, is there a reason he can't talk to the proprietor? Why will talking identify him as a seeker?

pg 5: "All I really know how to do is ask questions.”
--Except he wasn't really doing that either. He says there's something fishy going on with G, but then seems like he's not going to follow up on it. Sucks a lot of the tension out of the scene.

pg 6: "slammed a dark vial"
--is...she angry? She didn't seem angry before...

pg 7: "leaving the flake-covered side exposed"
--why did he pick up one of the flake-covered sticks? Did he ask for that?

pg 7: “Shut up, you stupid Witchbeast!”
--confused in this and the next paragraph who's talking about who and who said what.

pg 8: "Shame. Rage.” 
--is this from P? You're telling us a lot of emotions, but I don't necessarily see the reasons behind them in the people. I don't know why P is so angry with Z.

pg 9: hiding the key is interesting. Still not sure what's going on.

pg 9: "A thirst for knowledge exploded"
--Good use of T, but I was confused why "feeding" means there is more of the emotion in Z rather than less.

pg 11: “The clocktower? Seriously?”
--yeah, that seems kind of random. Are there any other public places around? Description would help make this more plausible if we can see where the hiding place isn't.

pg 11: "I think this city might be a Refuge.”
--I'm glad we got to a reason for the strange happenings, but I have no idea what it means, so this doesn't make a lot of impact.

pg 12: "meant to accommodate at least 10,000 refugees.”
--ok, now I know what it is, but still not why.

pg 12: “This is the part where I say, ‘there’s something behind me, isn’t there’?”
--lol

pg 12: “Rodents of Unusual Size, eh?”
--I appreciate the reference, but it pulls me out of the story because then I wonder how these characters have heard of The Princess Bride.

pg 13: good fight scene.

pg 14: “Hopefully, that woman didn’t make more of these things.”
--they were made by someone? I didn't get that part.

pg 15: Interesting exchange, but I feel like I need more information about Seekers and people who use the moon's light for magic to compare. Do witches also use the moon's light? Or do they use something else, which is why they're considered unnatural?

pg 18: repeat "horrible" twice in a paragraph. Aside from that, the fight is interesting.

pg 19: "my guardian does no sleep, nor does he slumber"
--not sure who/what this is.

pg 20: "He can’t stand them.”
--interesting that T only eats regular emotions.

pg 21: good ending to this part.

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Comments! I'll have to come back and check the rest of the group's comments at a future point, so watch this space, I guess.

As I read:

“Ss are forbidden from hating people.” The fact that Z seems to take this at face value makes me think of him as fairly young and perhaps a little naïve.

The comment about Z outing himself as a S… - do they have accents then? Are they tied to a particular language or ethnicity?

“I’ll stay quiet, so long as you know what questions to ask.” But Z and P don’t actually have any conversation about the information they’re trying to get; as far as P knows, this is just a shopping trip.

P10, “Z blinked, coming back to his sense” should be “senses.”

I’m now back to wondering why S shared as much as he did with Z, and why Z is so interested in it. He’s been assigned to the mission now, but doesn’t seem to have anything else driving him, which is a bit thin for someone he briefly met over a fire.

I like that T feeding on his emotions actually makes the emotion more prominent, rather than less which is what I would have expected. The paragraph does feel a little bit … Holmsian mind palace.

I think there may be a scene transition missing between P’s dialogue on the bottom of page 10 and the start of the next page/paragraph.

Why does the clocktower lead down into a sewer? That seems like an odd choice of architecture.  It’d also be nice to have some more description of the place—I think that might help with transition in. Plus, sewers tend to be viscerally gross places; a solid description could really lend to the atmosphere. For the most part, this walk through the tunnels doesn’t feel particularly tense, but it feels like it could.

“I think this city might be a refuge,” Z says, which clearly means something to P but doesn’t mean anything to us. Because it’s not something that’s come up before, it doesn’t really have an impact, even with the brief conversation that Z and P have about refuges—we just don’t understand enough about the world to know why this place is significant.

P is now guiding them through the tunnels by navigating the markings—which would make sense if they had some specific destination, but I thought they were looking for N specifically. Presumably they don’t know where she is.

“Allows is a strong word.” Hah. I do enjoy the T/Z dynamic.

I’m having a bit of trouble envisioning the way the centipede is attacking P. Wouldn’t climbing up over its shield take far too long?

In general, I think the fight scene works, but there are a few things that slow the momentum down for me, mostly having to do with where Z’s thoughts (and certain bits of dialogue) are placed. When Z stops to very deliberately take stock of the situation, for example, it feels very much like the centipede’s paused politely to wait while he figures out what’s what. I also wonder how P managed to walk up its back without Z noticing.

“Save your sympathy for when its dead!” should be “it’s”

Overall:

The pacing of this section has improved, though I still suspect the writing could be tightened up when you’re ready to do another pass. The thing I most wanted to see in this section was a little more buildup—not in any extended sort of way, just a quick moment to lay the groundwork for some things before they actually happen. For example: The clocktower. The key leads there because the clocktower happens to be nearby, not because we have any insight into S’s character or what the clocktower means. In fact I don’t remember seeing a description of the clocktower before Z determined that that’s where the key lead. Another example would be the appearance of the rats and centipede; both of them up without being announced. Something like a “hey, did you hear that?” or even “I think the place is empty” could go a long way towards signalling to the reader that something’s about to happen.

My over-arching comments from the last section are still true, which is that I don’t yet understand what’s at stake here, or what’s driving Z beyond the fact that he got this assignment from the guildmaster in the first section.

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11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

This section was more entertaining than the first part, as it's more of a quest storyline.  I'm getting a better feel for Z, as he seems to have a wide-eyed curiosity about the world but doesn't always know what he's getting into. I've just starting playing the Witcher games and this reminds me a lot of that, especially with the potions and fighting strange monsters.

Very much agree. T is a great character to interject ruthless honesty. If you've read Saga, he acts like Lying Cat, who is also a source of both comedy and great emotion.

Yes. This is in no small part inspired by Witcher, though I'm more of a fan of the novels than the game. (Yes, that's an odd comment from someone with my profile picture, I just don't go for open-world that much). And I very much enjoy the irony that T seems to be the most well-received character I've ever had on this forum, and honestly, I'm really not a fan of T. I like him, but again, he's kind of a nightmare of mine.

11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 7: "leaving the flake-covered side exposed"
--why did he pick up one of the flake-covered sticks? Did he ask for that?

It's the foxfire torch he bought. Because the people are nocturnal, their eyes are much better than ours, and thus glowsticks are basically torches for them. And the equivalent of that would be glow-in-the-dark fungus. (I think it's become apparent that kais's gleeful enthusiasm for fungus has infected me.)

11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 14: “Hopefully, that woman didn’t make more of these things.”
--they were made by someone? I didn't get that part.

pg 15: Interesting exchange, but I feel like I need more information about Seekers and people who use the moon's light for magic to compare. Do witches also use the moon's light? Or do they use something else, which is why they're considered unnatural?

Witches are the only one able to directly manipulate other life forms. Giant rats could only come about through a Witch's creation, and yes, they only use moon's light. It's just the way they use them which annoys Z.

11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 19: "my guardian does no sleep, nor does he slumber"
--not sure who/what this is.

It's a quote, really, though I'm not sure that anyone here would recognize where its from. I may take it out, then.

11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 20: "He can’t stand them.”
--interesting that T only eats regular emotions.

Yes. T can only eat and sense normal human emotions. This is a very important plot point.

Glad to see that, overall, this was more engaging of a submission for you.

Edited by aeromancer
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8 hours ago, Silk said:

“Ss are forbidden from hating people.” The fact that Z seems to take this at face value makes me think of him as fairly young and perhaps a little naïve.

Can I ask you what you find naive about it?

8 hours ago, Silk said:

The comment about Z outing himself as a S… - do they have accents then? Are they tied to a particular language or ethnicity?

No, but that's actually a really good idea.

8 hours ago, Silk said:

I like that T feeding on his emotions actually makes the emotion more prominent, rather than less which is what I would have expected. The paragraph does feel a little bit … Holmsian mind palace.

Yes, that's it exactly! T's power aren't vampiric in nature, they're the opposite. He empowers the emotion he feeds on. Normally, this is only a mild effect, but if T really wants to, he can flare up emotions to almost absurd degrees. He is restricted to normal human emotions, but even normal humans can experience extreme moods.

8 hours ago, Silk said:

Why does the clocktower lead down into a sewer? That seems like an odd choice of architecture.  It’d also be nice to have some more description of the place—I think that might help with transition in. Plus, sewers tend to be viscerally gross places; a solid description could really lend to the atmosphere. For the most part, this walk through the tunnels doesn’t feel particularly tense, but it feels like it could.

“I think this city might be a refuge,” Z says, which clearly means something to P but doesn’t mean anything to us. Because it’s not something that’s come up before, it doesn’t really have an impact, even with the brief conversation that Z and P have about refuges—we just don’t understand enough about the world to know why this place is significant.

The world of Cieri is a dark fantasy setting where monstrous creatures roam freely and can form groups en masse. Its not unheard of for entire cities to be destroyed by monster attacks. (Generally, it's an attack by a giant creature, something akin to a dragon, a la Smaug) To allow for this, certain cities where established as 'Refuges', where displaced people would be able to quickly settle and rebuild their city. Now, since doing that would more or less obliterate the original town of several hundred, no one would want to live in them, so Refuges are kept hidden. The sewer system in question is part of that, and thus not used at all by the townspeople, who in fact, don't know about it. Clocktowers, being kind of a staple in any good medieval town of a decent enough size, is a great place to conceal many things, yet have anyone with the right knowledge be capable of finding it.

(There's an old riddle: Let's say you and a friend want to meet in a city, but neither of you agreed on a meeting place ahead of time and have no way of getting into contact. Where should you go to have the most likely chance of meeting him? If you lived in the Middles Ages, it'd be the clocktower. It's always the most noticeable landmark in any given town.)

Given that, I assumed the best place to hide the entrance to a secret would be the clocktower. Unfortunately, that was more or less a dedicated paragraph of exposition, and I was terrified of just dropping that on the reader, especially given that I've already been having issues with 'show, don't tell' in this submission.

9 hours ago, Silk said:

Overall:

The pacing of this section has improved, though I still suspect the writing could be tightened up when you’re ready to do another pass. The thing I most wanted to see in this section was a little more buildup—not in any extended sort of way, just a quick moment to lay the groundwork for some things before they actually happen. For example: The clocktower. The key leads there because the clocktower happens to be nearby, not because we have any insight into S’s character or what the clocktower means. In fact I don’t remember seeing a description of the clocktower before Z determined that that’s where the key lead. Another example would be the appearance of the rats and centipede; both of them up without being announced. Something like a “hey, did you hear that?” or even “I think the place is empty” could go a long way towards signalling to the reader that something’s about to happen.

This is in line with a lot of other comments I've received. I'll put more of an emphasis  on the clocktower certainly, and I'll see what I can do to give the sewers more of a sewer-y feel. There definitely should be some creepy echoes, at least.

9 hours ago, Silk said:

My over-arching comments from the last section are still true, which is that I don’t yet understand what’s at stake here, or what’s driving Z beyond the fact that he got this assignment from the guildmaster in the first section.

Both of those should be resolved next submission. Thank you for your comments.

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On 11/26/2019 at 2:53 PM, Lightbearer said:

Pg. 6: once the alchemist returns, Z is talking to her directly, no more whispering and using Tempter. Is that a continuity error?

I had interpreted this as a choice Z was making, not a continuity error, but it's true that we don't get any sort of reaction from the alchemist or P to signal it as such.

On 11/26/2019 at 2:53 PM, Lightbearer said:

The deduction isn't very obvious because you haven't foreshadowed his conclusion by showing the tower or the place where they are.

This is an excellent point.

On 11/26/2019 at 4:56 PM, aeromancer said:

by wishing G. 'Godspeed', something only Seekers say. G just fails to notice.

This is tricky, because if the characters don't notice it neither do we. "Godspeed" is a pretty common phrase in the real world, if becoming somewhat archaic, and we have no way of knowing that this is Z. outing himself.

On 11/27/2019 at 6:44 AM, Mandamon said:

I fully agree with putting more description and cutting down on some of the overlong dialogue and telling. It will make this snappier and easier to read.

Same.

On 11/26/2019 at 4:56 PM, aeromancer said:

- it's the fact that the key  a ) is a spare key stashed by S. and b ) unlocks somewhere nearby, neither of which required knowledge on Z's part that the clock tower was there

This much actually worked for me.

On 11/27/2019 at 5:53 PM, aeromancer said:

Can I ask you what you find naive about it?

The way Z's dialogue was presented there, the implication was pretty clearly that they're forbidden from hating people, so therefore they don't--which might be true of Z himself, but he's speaking for all of his colleagues as if he believes it's just as true of all of them, which seems a lot more like idealism than anything that might actually be true. It's not necessarily a bad thing; as @Mandamon has mentioned Z does seem to be a somewhat innocent character just in general.

On 11/27/2019 at 5:53 PM, aeromancer said:

The world of Cieri is a dark fantasy setting where monstrous creatures roam freely and can form groups en masse.

Okay, so all this background is good, but definitely not coming through in the draft quite yet. Totally get your hesitance to just dump it in a paragraph and that's probably a good instinct, but I don't think you necessarily need to. For one thing, we don't need to get all of it at once; it can come in in dribs and drabs, and perhaps we don't need all of it, period. We just need enough to give us a sense of verisimilitude and to start building up the foreshadowing, as @Lightbringer has noted.

Coming back to the showing-not-telling comments, you have a real opportunity in the introductory scenes to do some "showing" with two characters who are wandering around the woods and potentially fairly vulnerable to these kinds of threats. S is a competent fighter, but totally by himself; Z has a companion who's capable in combat, but isn't himself. Can one or both of them worry about the possibility of encountering such a creature in the woods? Is one known to be nearby (or maybe nobody's heard of one in an ominously long time)? Does Z feel relieved, maybe seemingly disproportionately so, when he gets  into the town because at least it's civilization? The fact that the town, or its infrastructure, seem bigger than necessary for the number of people could possibly be made just a bit more of in the descriptions, to further signal to the reader that something's not as it seems here. You could potentially mention Refuges by name in one of these snippets, if you choose to add them, but maybe you don't need to; present the threat in the right way and reasonably genre-savvy readers can probably start making connections once the capital-R Refuge is dropped. Again, I think it's less important that the readers know or learn exactly what it is than they feel that they can start putting the pieces of the world together.

On 11/27/2019 at 5:53 PM, aeromancer said:

There definitely should be some creepy echoes, at least.

For sure. And presumably, all the infrastructure would be in place; empty canals where sewage is intended to go but there's only dirt and dust instead, etc.

On 11/27/2019 at 5:53 PM, aeromancer said:

Both of those should be resolved next submission.

Cool cool. I do think some hints of this earlier in the manuscript would still be very helpful. If readers don't feel Z's urgency they may not be willing to stick with him long enough to see his motivations revealed.

Edited by Silk
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11 hours ago, Silk said:

I do think some hints of this earlier in the manuscript would still be very helpful.

Yep. @aeromancer if you're editing the manuscript as we go, I'd be happy to read it again at the end (wouldn't mind one big submission).

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This has more action than the first part, but many of the same issues. Once again it feels like there are a large number of names and titles thrown around without much to anchor them to the story or the characters. I never got a clear picture of the town or the sewer so it felt very disjointed to me, like the characters were floating around talking to each other rather than interacting with their environments. I am still confused as to what the story is. I did get a better sense of the characters and their personalities this time around and the action is well structured so that I knew what was going on physically for most of it. The centipede is appropriately creepy.

I agree with @Mandamon and @Lightbringer in that I think the structure could use some adjustment to help anchor the story better in its place and provide a clearer direction for the progression of the plot. 

@Silk has the right of it when she mentions the lack of groundwork. It seems like things tend to appear only when they're needed and disappear when their use is through and while some of that is inevitable, too much can make a story feel disjointed and overly convenient. Highly visible town landmarks, for example, I feel like could be introduced when the town itself is introduced, and then gone into more detail when they become relevant to the story. I think some of my problems here are also due to my inability to figure out which pieces of information are the ones important to the story. There is a lot of information and worldbuilding already here for sure, but it's all treated similarly by the characters and the text, so I can't figure out what to prioritize and end up getting lost. 

"my guardian does no sleep, nor does he slumber" -- I did not understand this phrase, either. To me, call-outs and references work best when they make sense within the story on their own without the extra associations, and don't confuse people who don't know the reference. Since I don't know the source of this quote, it looks to me like this is talking about T acting as a "guardian" to Z, or some reference to an unknown guardian of the order Z is a part of. Nothing comes of it, the characters in the story don't react to it, so I'm left very confused by the meaning and feeling distracted by trying to figure out why a "guardian" was mentioned, why no one reacted to the statement, and how a "guardian" will figure into this story at some point later. 

"Rodents of Unusual Size" --  I feel like this is a little on the nose. Like the other reference, if I didn't know Princess Bride, or didn't remember the rats, I'd wonder why he was using this extra capital letters and odd phrasing. It would distract me and keep me from following the action as closely. 

I like that T has limitations and I feel like this will be important later.  T is definitely my favorite character so far. 

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Just under the ole wire!

Overall

This piece seemed to lag in places. I think it was too dialogue heavy without enough setting or motivation. A lot of the first few pages could be condensed down into one, and I think you rehash a lot of the same discussion material several times. Might be worth a cleaning pass to see what could be trimmed, and where you could sneak in some worldbuilding and character fleshing out (that isn't in dialogue form).

On 11/26/2019 at 2:53 PM, Lightbearer said:

Add more showing, reduce dialog.

Completely agree

On 11/27/2019 at 6:44 AM, Mandamon said:

I'm glad we got to a reason for the strange happenings, but I have no idea what it means, so this doesn't make a lot of impact.

I had this same issue

On 11/27/2019 at 8:27 AM, Silk said:

My over-arching comments from the last section are still true, which is that I don’t yet understand what’s at stake here, or what’s driving Z beyond the fact that he got this assignment from the guildmaster in the first section.

This was also my problem. I still don't know what the stakes are or the motivations, so it's still hard to get invested.

 

As I go

- you've got a lot of passive voice in those first few lines. Switching to active here at the start would probably help

- pg 1: forbidding people to hate cannot possibly actually keep people from hating

- pg 3: why did he just get introduced as a witch? I thought he wasn't a witch. That's what the whole first page established, yes?

- pg 4: this is a ton of dialogue on who is going where and doing what, in which no one moves

- pg 6: I feel like everything that has happened to this point could be condensed into a single page. I'm not quite sure where any of this is going. It is...dialogue heavy and detail light.

- pg 8: I have no idea what is going on. There's a lot of banter about what kind of witch/seeker one of the characters is, and they bought some stuff at a shop. I want to know where this is going, however, or what/who I should be investing in

- pg 10: more confusion. Why did the shop keeper sell them a bottle of alcohol that wasn't? What was the motivation of the shop keeper?

- the clock tower just sort of appears out of nowhere. I need more description of this town when they enter it

- pg 11: tracks? what kind of tracks? animal tracks? train tracks?

- pg 11: they have bioluminescent fungi torches?? Uh, can you please describe them? Because that is so cool

- pg 12: LOL Princess Bride reference. It sort of changes the tone, though

- pg 14: “Hopefully, that woman didn’t make more of these things <-- who what now? The seller didn't make more... keys in oil disguised as alcohol? Why would she? That's a terrible way to get repeat clients.

- pg 16: are they walking while they do all this talking? Or are they just standing around some dead rat carcassas (sp?) and rehashing witches again?

- pg 16: wait, there are tunnels now? Are they no longer in a town?

- pg 17: It's confused enough to kill them, so instead of helping it be less confused, they have to kill it? Why isn't taming it an option?

- I do like the idea of a giant centipede 

 

 

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7 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

@Silk has the right of it when she mentions the lack of groundwork. It seems like things tend to appear only when they're needed and disappear when their use is through and while some of that is inevitable, too much can make a story feel disjointed and overly convenient. Highly visible town landmarks, for example, I feel like could be introduced when the town itself is introduced, and then gone into more detail when they become relevant to the story. I think some of my problems here are also due to my inability to figure out which pieces of information are the ones important to the story. There is a lot of information and worldbuilding already here for sure, but it's all treated similarly by the characters and the text, so I can't figure out what to prioritize and end up getting lost. 

Understood. Hopefully, I should be able to sift the information a bit better the next time around. I occasionally get carried away with worldbuilding, and I've kind of been feeding the habit at the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange lately.

7 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

"my guardian does no sleep, nor does he slumber" -- I did not understand this phrase, either. To me, call-outs and references work best when they make sense within the story on their own without the extra associations, and don't confuse people who don't know the reference. Since I don't know the source of this quote, it looks to me like this is talking about T acting as a "guardian" to Z, or some reference to an unknown guardian of the order Z is a part of. Nothing comes of it, the characters in the story don't react to it, so I'm left very confused by the meaning and feeling distracted by trying to figure out why a "guardian" was mentioned, why no one reacted to the statement, and how a "guardian" will figure into this story at some point later. 

I'm going to need to figure out what to do with this quote. It seems like no one got the quote, which wasn't supposed to happen, and there's way too much context to summarize, so I'm going to need to find some alternative. (If you don't get the quote, it's not a problem, it just means that I'm applying the wrong source.)

Thanks for the comments. I see you have also joined the rest of this site in finding T to be the most compelling character. That's good, I was worried about him. (Because, like I've said a few times, T scares me.)

 

28 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 1: forbidding people to hate cannot possibly actually keep people from hating

You'd be surprised! I mean, there's actually a trick to it that Z uses which will crop up in the next part, flat-out banning by hatred by itself isn't great, there needs to be a method alongside it, but I think it's within Z's character as such to behave like this.

31 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 3: why did he just get introduced as a witch? I thought he wasn't a witch. That's what the whole first page established, yes?

P did it because he hates the idea of being associated with Seekers. Z is not happy it, he spends half the next conversation trying to get back.

32 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 4: this is a ton of dialogue on who is going where and doing what, in which no one moves

- pg 6: I feel like everything that has happened to this point could be condensed into a single page. I'm not quite sure where any of this is going. It is...dialogue heavy and detail light.

- pg 8: I have no idea what is going on. There's a lot of banter about what kind of witch/seeker one of the characters is, and they bought some stuff at a shop. I want to know where this is going, however, or what/who I should be investing in

Condense and clarify. I'll do my best.

34 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 11: they have bioluminescent fungi torches?? Uh, can you please describe them? Because that is so cool

"A bucket of water was in another corner, with damp sticks of wood sticking out, brown looking flakes covering the exposed wood." - briefly mentioned in more detail on page three, though I can go into greater detail about them. Though I'm not sure it'd be in my best interest to monologue about fungi in a dark fantasy setting. 

36 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 14: “Hopefully, that woman didn’t make more of these things <-- who what now? The seller didn't make more... keys in oil disguised as alcohol? Why would she? That's a terrible way to get repeat clients.

- pg 16: are they walking while they do all this talking? Or are they just standing around some dead rat carcassas (sp?) and rehashing witches again?

- pg 16: wait, there are tunnels now? Are they no longer in a town?

There was kind of an implied transition between pages 10-11 which, given that it's composed of a line break between paragraphs on two separate pages would be very easy to miss. That would be my fault. There's supposed to be a transition to where they're in the tunnels from outside the clocktower. The 'more of these things' is referencing the rats, and they're walking through an underground sewer.

38 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 17: It's confused enough to kill them, so instead of helping it be less confused, they have to kill it? Why isn't taming it an option?

- I do like the idea of a giant centipede 

Tempter can only increase emotions, not reduce them, so making it less confused is out. As for why Z wants to kill it ... that's complicated. Suffice to say, as I've written his background, it is consistent, but it'll take me maybe a thousand words to explain why he thinks trying to kill it is the correct option.

Also, yes, I like giant centipedes. It's a horrifying image, walking down sewers, than to see the entire tunnel before you is blocked by a monstrous horrifying demon beast.

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Page 1

 

Z was flipping a silver coin through his hand.

 

The wording here makes it sound like he’s passing a coin through the flesh of his hand (making his hand insubstantial or something). While that’s certainly something that could happen in a fantasy setting, I don’t think it’s what you mean here.

 

 

Page 4

 

“Tch!” Z tensed and inhaled. He breathed in deeply and gave a slow count to center himself. “My apologies, T.”

 

I’m not sure why Z’s comment made T upset, since it is thanks to T that G thinks Z is a Witch.

 

 

Page 5

“S gave you time of night?”

I like that he says “time of night” instead of “time of day.” I always appreciate it when an author shows the effect that the speculative elements of their story have on small things like figures of speech.

 

 

Page 12

 

“Rodents of Unusual Size, eh?”

Well, at least they’re not in a fire swamp. :)

This reference does pull me out of the story a bit, though. This doesn’t feel like the kind of story where fourth-wall breaking like this would be expected. (I mean, obviously you’re playing on general fantasy tropes, such as Adventurers’ Guilds, but it just feels different to me as a reader when you reference a specific piece of media.)

 

 

The other one went for him.

The clause before this sentence talked about P lowering his magical barrier, so I assumed the rat was going after him. But the paragraph following this shows the rat going after Z, so I was a little confused until I figured out what was going on.

 

 

Page 16

 

The centipede roared.

 

I can’t really imagine a centipede roaring, even if it’s gigantic. It just doesn’t feel like a very “insect-like” sort of sound.

 

 

Overall Thoughts

The action scene in this was very well-written, and I especially liked P’s tactic of luring the centipede in to attack over his shield so he could go underneath.

Worldbuilding-wise, I like that you fleshed out T’s powers a bit, particularly his weaknesses. I was left wondering about the mention of the town being able to hold 10,000 refugees, though. If there was an ongoing war or natural disaster that could produce the need for multiple Refuges, I feel like some character would probably have mentioned it in passing before this point. (E.g. The guild master saying, “Thanks for offering your help with this. With the war against the Awful Bad Dudes going so badly, the last thing we need is a rogue Witch.”)

Edited by The Kraken's Daughter
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