Lost Owl Needs Tea

07/20/20 - Lost Owl Needs Tea - Goblin Winter (mild V/G) 3780 words

9 posts in this topic

Hello everyone

A short story I wrote a while back. Please let me know your thoughts and reading experience, any kind of feedback is appreciated!

 

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Notes as I go:
P. 1. Grammar! It took me a few rereads to determine what you meant by ‘more unanimous’. The next line, “all of listed were” uses a different tense (were) and omits a ‘the’. The entire sentence seems much too long to me. Think of maybe replacing a comma somewhere with a full stop.
I’ve now realised that the reason for the tense change is because goblins are (presumably) a thing of the past. Think of clarifying this.
“Long-limned” should be “long-limbed,” though I’ve always like ‘limned’ as a word.
P. 2. “Non-transformational magic was not goblin forte.” I don’t know if healing isn’t, strictly speaking, a form of transformation.
P. 3. “He moved Shadow.” The capitalisation confused me. Is Shadow a creature? Or do you mean shadow, the thing?
This is clarified almost instantly. Gotcha. It’s a creature.
I am enjoying your language. The goblin’s otherness is coming across very well. I’m usually not a fan of single-syllable lines, but they work well here.
P. 7. I like the characters. I feel O is sympathetic, whereas C has the potential to become an evil witch in the woods.

P. 16. Called it. Evil witch/goblin in the woods it is!

Overall: I feel like this has a lot of potential. It just needs tightened up in a few respects. I feel, for instance, that the portion with Ro wasn’t strictly necessary. I was wondering what the connection between the goblin and Ro was. And your language could be clearer throughout, as I wasn't always certain what was happening.
But on the whole I enjoyed it.
 

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Like @TheDwarfyOne, I think your writing is quite beautiful and descriptive, and that was what pulled me through reading the story. As to the content...I'm really not sure what happened. I think it was about the transformation of the goblin from neutral, to good, to evil, but especially the last few pages I got really lost. All the characters seem to act randomly and violently, and I didn't get good reasons from any of them. I think this could be tightened up quite a bit, and I'll second that you could take out Ro's POV at the end and not lose anything. Introducing a new character at the end of a short story just causes too much confusion.

Thanks for submitting!

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "a few are more unanimous," "All of listed were both true and false"
--these two sentences are a little confusing. I think the first one is saying either "a few are unanimous," or "few are more unanimous." The second one is missing or has extra words: "All listed were both true and false," or "All of the qualities listed were both true and false"

pg 2: "he had tried them all. He would nurse them back to life,"
--The first sentence sounds like he's eating them, while the second sentence sounds like he's helping them.

pg 2: "left One more hideous than ever"
--does this mean they left his house seeming more hideous, or they made One look more hideous?

pg 2: "an older, more experienced"
--the aging hunter is younger than the one that caught him?

pg 4: I like the line about the storm being offended.

pg 4: "tip of his index" -> "tip of his index finger"

pg 5: "It was carefully taken"
--what? I'm guessing the plate, but it sounds like he's taking her blood.

pg 6: the ingredient list is a little confusing. Is he lying about what the ingredients are to make her feel better? Why is that?

pg 7: Not sure why he suddenly volunteered the color of his eyes.
er, except I guess he lied about it? Why?

pg 8: The thing with the mouse is weird. Did the girl kill it? Why?

pg 10: This page is kind of unclear. She tried to kill him? Why?

pg 13: Okay, so I think she transformed him into a human over time, but what did that have to do with stabbing him?

pg 14-15: Not sure what's happening here. Did the man kill his parents? Why is he so blase about them being killed?

pg 16: Still not quite sure what happened. Is this the same goblin? Why is he a monster now instead of a boy?

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One of the parts of this story that I liked and that interested me the most was C's oddities. The scene with her cutting herself pulled me in especially. The visceral image of blood is used well, especially since it contrasted with the "high" tone (not sure exactly how to describe it). Since the story plays with the idea that C is supposed to be "pure", having her act in puzzling ways that show a more visceral side was well-done. 

I'll also say that I was confused at times about what was happening, especially near the end. I agree that the change in PoV at the end didn't feel necessary to me, and I also honestly thought the entire beginning section could be reworked or cut. Even for novels those sorts of intros are falling out of style (so far as I'm aware) because authors are figuring out that conflict rather than lore is what hooks many readers. For a short story, this sort of intro is even harder to make work. 

The fact that the beginning is zoomed out leads into another point which I find often occurs in short story drafts: it's hard for me to know what to focus on in the story. I had a lot of questions going through, but most of them probably weren't relevant to what the story was trying to be. But what is the story trying to be? I'm still not entirely sure. My main investment was in C rather than O, and I wasn't sure if that was the thread I was supposed to focus on. In this, a short story's beginning is vital for setting us down a path that we're supposed to follow. Right now, we have such a wide view that I'm not sure what to focus on. A rule of thumb I like is that all the major points the story focuses on should be hinted at in the first paragraph. Keeping our attention directed at these points will help us from getting distracted in confused.

This plays into how the story is trying to deal with and subvert multiple tropes. I do like the idea, and I think more work is needed for it to have full effect. We seem to be dealing with the trope that goblins are simple and brutish, and the trope of a "pure" sacrifice. Either one on its own could make a complete story, so there's a delicate juggling act here. Right now these storylines seem to be fighting with each other for screen time; moments either seem to be about C or O, with the exception of when the people find C. This leads to neither feeling completely fleshed out to me. I'd recommend either focusing on one or having the subversion of these tropes constantly playing off each other.

Good luck in revision! 

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A fun read overall! It's already been commented on but the imagery was really nice. I also liked the other sensory information, textures and smells, that added depth. 

I felt a little lost in the beginning and the end. The beginning seems to include much more information than I needed to enjoy the story. At the end, I wasn't sure what the MC meant by children, or who was doing the killing or why. This left me uncertain of the point of the story. 

I do also agree that three POV's might be too much for a story of this length, but that can be a preference thing. 

Still very pleasant, thanks for sharing.

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I forgot to do my normal comments because I got swept up by your prose.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It reminded me of a folktale someone might tell about the goblin that once roamed the woods...and the girl that may or may not have been the true monster.

My initial takeway was that C was a little off her rocker, and was going to attempt to kill O by the end. Instead, I'm not sure if she transformed him after attacking him, or if by being around her, O transformed unconsciously. I was really getting into a "who's the real monster here" kind of story, and was thinking that C wasn't actually a sacrifice, but was rather being left to die due to her murderous habits (the poor innocent mouse!).

I didn't think R's POV at the end was necessary. He was set up for...nothing. It could have literally ended with a random hunter stumbling into O, cutting the word count down (and giving you room to add clarifying details elsewhere). 

I think with some cleaning up and some clarification on what the takeaway of the story will be, you'll have a fine tale on your hands!

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I read this a few days ago and have been thinking on it before making comments, but I've run out of time. 

I had mixed feelings about the opening. All the information about Goblins right up front was useful and fit the fairy-tale type genre, but by the end of it, I was getting frustrated and wanted to just meet the characters and get to the actual story. However, you prose were pretty and the world you were building was fascinating, so even if I had been reading this in a magazine or something,  probably would have kept reading anyway. 

Once we finally got to the main character, I was intrigued. Your goblin was fascinating. I wanted to spend more time with him and the girl he rescued. My only real complaint about those scenes were that they went to quickly. I'd just be started to settle in and get a feel for things, and then it was over and we were onto the next scene. Slow down a little. Maybe even add a few more hints about how he is changing even if he doesn't realize it. 

The end was too abrupt for me. The girl getting taken away felt really rushed, and initially left me a little confused. 

I didn't love switching POVs after that. I understand she made him human and her getting taken away, probably killed, made him a monster, but I don't like it. If I step back and look at it objectively, it would work find if you just took  a little more time with the middle and end. However, I generally prefer stories with happy endings, so I was pretty grumbly at the end of this one. Of course, there are plenty of readers who would prefer this kind of ending to a happy one. But I'm not one of them. 

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Still playing catch up.

Overall

Strong start once the intro was over and the language cleared up. I was hooked until I got so confused I couldn't figure out the story lines. I liked the idea of the creature and the blind girl. I liked the creepy feeling and her what appears to be psychosis. Once the dream happens and he becomes a boy I got very confused, and remained so through the rest of the story. Maybe more clarification? Be more direct about the concepts we are supposed to get? Generally the writing is nice and compelling, but it's the overall arc and clarity that I think could use some work.

 

As I go

- pg 1: All of listed were <-- there are some slightly awkward phrases here in this first paragraph

- pg 1: the imagery is pretty but the prose is still...just a touch too wordy to follow without really concentrating. That means I can't focus on the story and keep getting sidetracked by trying to figure out what the words are trying to say

- pg 5: once the story gets going and we leave the more extensive prose behind, it flows well. I've got a strong interest in the story and am well hooked

- pg 7: errr okay, Depressed Girl is now Creepy Girl

- pg 9: yes, very creepy

- pg 13: wait, he was dreaming about being a boy but...then he was? This scene is very confusing. What did the girl do? Was he turning himself human and then she....worked magic? I don't understand at all

- I have no idea what the end beat is about

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Hey, sorry for the delay in reading.

These are overview comments rather than line-by-line as I try to catch up.

I enjoyed the tone of the story, that fairytale lilt shines through clearly in the pacing and the language.

Talking of the language, however, there were a lot of sentences and a good deal of phrasing that I tripped over because it just wasn't good or flowing English. It made me wonder if English is not your first language, but there were other phrases that flowed so well, and were poetic. So, then I wondered if the text just was not proofread. That aspect left me confused. Example: The description of the storm passing through is lovely. Him sweeping his arms, etc., really good. But "Purposefully, with a satisfied smile?" does not to me seem to fit in with the context around it, and I've tried numerous times to figure what the intended meaning of that sentence is in its paragraph.

One of the difficulties in a story like this, I think, is reader engagement with the characters. I didn't feel any attachment to One in the early stages of the story, so I was kind of in an emotional flat spot in relation to the main character. Neither did I feel much of anything for the girl, because she is very passive at first, AND, because this is a fairytale, I'm expecting her--as the apparent weakling--to turn out to be massively powerful and in disguise.

Consistency of formatting. Minor point, maybe, but there are sections breaks defined by one asterisk, and others defined by three asterisks, with no apparent logic to the different. I know you're not subbing to a market here, but formatting consistency is an important thing to look professional to editors, publishers and agents. 

There are some really nice ideas. I particularly liked the shadow folk.

"It was the 83rd night since" - Numerals in narrative is not the done thing, IMO, especially not in fantasy. Don't take my word for it, look in published works, or watch out for it in books you're reading. I don't think you will see this anywhere. Sometimes in SF maybe, which is a different mood, or when relating an actual number, like 'The number '4' was scribbled on the door.'

Clarity, in places, could I think be better. There were a number of occasions when I was left puzzled over what a phrase or sentence meant. E.g. "imagining the pattern he would see in the morning". What pattern, where? He was the one cut, but it sounded like he was only cut once, so, no pattern on him. So, is it meant to imply that her pattern will have changed? But he was the one cut? Unclear, IMO.

"Summer ended, and winter had come again" - Confused. At the start, winter was portrayed as the source of his goblin 'ugliness', and yet now that he is transformed to a human. So, is it intended that the ugliness is in the humans, because of their fervent hate for C? That's all I can think of, and maybe it's supposed to be ambiguous, but I don't do all that well with ambiguous things, which is on me, I guess. It depends how clear you want it to be.

I do not like the heading near the end, 'Years Later'. I think it would be far, far better to put this in the narrative. In this form as a title it really breaks up the flow of the narrative, which I think is a bad thing this close to the end. I don't see anything wrong with writing 'Years later, two men trundled through the forest...etc.'

"dug a small fire pit and settled down to rest" - Fire alarm!!! We've got low branches, and presumably resinous as a coniferous tree, and therefore very likely to burn well. This is how forest fires start. This a cigarette butts, etc.

"Robin’s father had died when he was eight" - (1) Robin, hah! :)  Also, (2) introducing new characters and starting to give new character background three pages from the end of the story is kind of hard on the reader, IMO. Not best practice in relation to short stories, IMO.

"The stiff body had been abandoned in the field" - Abandoned by whom? Bit confused. If he was killed by a creature, then it's not really abandoning, is it? Also, I go back to my earlier point. Here is a completely new mystery right at the end of the story. I want to see the links soon.

"It hadn’t made much difference" - Massive difference between having a half-insane live person in the house to then having no one else in the house. All the different in the world, in global terms. I understand what's intended, but I think more specificity here about how there isn't much difference is needed.

"intestine peeking out..." - Great image here, very nicely constructed. This story will tidy up really nicely, I'm sure. I reiterate how so many parts are really well written and well expressed.

"His older sister repeated this a good many times" - Repeated what? Unclear.

"Every village within 100 miles knew" - Nope. 'Every village within a (or 'one') hundred miles knew'. It's just so jarring, the appearance of the numeral.

"to replace it with a lasting image closer to his sister’s delusion" - I don't think this is clear, this sentiment. Also, "taut, agonised features".

"His older sister had it easy; through her own doing." - I don't understand.

"until his nerves and chest were so tight" - Grammar.

"and the hunter stopped short, his ax mid-strike" - Confused.  In the same paragraph, it is said that Robin is a hunter. Is this Robin, another hunter? I don't understand.

"Kill me if you must" - Whose line it this? The goblin, I'm guessing, but I don't think it's automatically clear.

"They were not born in the village, and I have returned" - Who has returned? What is the relevance of it? I don't get it.

"Blue eyes narrowed" - Confused by this. O's eyes were not blue. I don't think it's clear that C's eyes were blue, although there is O's line that his eyes were 'also' blue, but that is not exactly definitive. So, if here eyes are blue, this is C? That's the only conclusion I'm left with, but how did she get children when the villagers were dragging here away (presumably to burn her at the stake)?

Overall 

There is some nice writing in here, and a good, consistent tone throughout in that fairytale style. My biggest issue, I'm afraid, is that I just didn't care what happened to the characters, and that is pretty much always fatal for any story I read. I don't really understand C's motivation. O's, I guess, was to survive, but I don't get why C did what she did.

Sorry to not be more positive, and sorry for being so late with these comments. I'm now very interested to read the other comments on the thread.

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