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Turin Turambar

Reading Excuses - 7/20/2020 - Turin Turambar - Infernal Accounting - Ch. 1 (5779) V.

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Hello all, 

 
Pardon me for going over the word limit. Silk, if this was too long, tell me. This is an urban fantasy about a really cool idea I had (or think I had - there's a possibility that I accidentally "borrowed" this from somewhere.) I have a few plot points, but really have no idea where this story is going. 
 
Obviously I'd like whatever feedback that you're willing to provide, but if possible I want to know what you think is going to happen and why.
 
 
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First, I'll say that I really enjoyed reading this chapter. I'm a sucker for dialogue and this chapter had some great conversations. :) 

This first chapter seems to heavily revolve around the relationship between N and R, and I expect that will be the main focus going forward. Here are two sets of predictions I have for the story going forward:

#1. N gets forced into increasingly worse situations, due to both the knights trying to rid the world of fiends and R getting N more and more involved with his affairs because he knows he can use her and then let her take the fall if necessary. As a result, she has to evade the knights while simultaneously trying to back out of what R wants her to do. Evidence for this guess is N trying to keep her personal life secret from R and comparing fiendish influence to human trafficking, indicating this is something she doesn't want to get too deep in. 

#2. N and R end up having a more positive relationship and learn to band together despite their differences. Through getting close to N, R is able to partially reform and both work together as a team of equal partners to stop the knights, who end up being shady/evil. Evidence for this is N considering R a friend, indicating that she might want camaraderie with him and sees him as more than just a client. 

I generally prefer "friends working together" stories like #2 predicts, but I'm not sure that's the right choice here. R and N are not on equal power levels, and it will be hard to write around that and say that they are equal if they do decide to work together (though it's still possible, such as if R's subordinates rebel and leave him with nothing). As such, I like #1 more at this point in time. 

As for feedback, my comments are mostly about the beginning and the end. I was first hooked on page 2 when N starts drawing the summoning circle. The details on the first page aren't bad by any means, but they're not the focus of the chapter so interspersing them throughout the first scene instead of leading with them will get us right into the action. As for the end, I thought the escalation came rather quickly. I wasn't really on board to see N react to potentially dying after only spending 15 pages with her that were exclusively in situations devoid of violence. What we do get a sense of in the first 15 pages is that she realizes she's in a delicate situation and wants to keep some control herself while not going too deep. Having L threaten N's control and anonymity might hit harder than us transitioning into N nearly dying since it would play into existing ideas. I think it makes sense in universe as well. If N wants to keep on the down-low, why tell L that she's the demon's accountant? Especially after L reveals her organization, I think it makes sense for N to keep her cards close to her chest. 

I'd definitely be up for reading more of this! 

 

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This is an interesting concept, but I think the characters need to be defined a lot better. That may give you some ideas of where to go with this. Right now, I'm  completely turned off from N. She's knows what she's doing and seems to be okay with aiding literal evil in taking people's souls. Why? How did she get here? Why does she seem so normal?

R I can understand. He's a demon, and following his assigned path. I could see this as being a sort of Good Omens type story, but again, N's character needs to have a very good reason for doing what she's doing. Right now she just seems to be a terrible person, and L is fully justified in trying to keep her from helping a demon.

There were also a lot of sections where this went between present tense and past tense, and also a lot of questions sentences without question marks. There are also a lot of places where N says she's keeping personal details from R, but the story is loaded with them. I assume R knows all about her.

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "no indication of my personality"
--I don't think that's right. The MC even has pictures up. That's going to tell people something.

pg 1: "Something hard settles into my stomach."
--good line, but this is in present tense when the rest is in past.

pg 3: "I stalk through my bedroom, careful not to recreate 9/11"
--eesh. I'd maybe chance that metaphor.

pg 3: "skin feel like it’s" -> "skin feel like it was"

pg 3: "The demon towers"
--more mixed tense.

pg 4: "Who dares summon me"
--Did the MC actually summon the demon? It seemed like there was just a pentagram on the floor, but no actual summoning...

pg 4: "What idiot decided that summoning rituals"
--Wait, why is N doing the summoning after the demon is there? That's not how it works.

pg 4: "He returned the gesture"
--cool twist!

pg 5: "giving R personal information"
--hmmm...I feel like the demon has plenty of personal information.

pg 5: "three ornate pieces of china I had inherited from my grandfather."
-more personal information.

pg 7: "I barely shuddered that time."
--I'm a little confused. N seems to like the demon as a friend, but is routinely horrified by the demon-like things he does?

pg 7: “Why does it not surprise me that you’ve been to France?”
--just saying a French word doesn't mean you've been there.

pg 8: "Then she froze."
--why?

pg 8: “I’m not going to, so you may as well stop.”
--going to what?

pg 11: "as I turned the pink phone"
--what phone? I thought they were looking at files?
--oh, files on the phone. Probably needs an identifier.

pg 12: "I resisted the urge to change my shirt,"
--there's no possible way to do this, so it's pretty easy to resist...

pg 13: "I’d bet that at least five of those have the most unimpeachable alibis.”
--why? to get out of gather souls? I'm a little lost.

pg 14: "I have some work I need"
--repeated from the line above.

pg 14: "it was hard to look at him the same as all your other friends. Then again, he was nothing like my other friends."
--yeah, I'm sort of confused/concerned that her friend is a demon. Half the time she seems put off by him, and half the time doesn't care that he's a literal embodiment of evil.

pg 17: "He’s not my boyfriend."
--she never said he was...

pg 17: "He sees you as a means to own more souls.”
--yeah, this is sort of what's been bothering me the whole time.

pg 18: "I may not like the idea much more than trafficking people, but it’s legal and pays well.”
--...that's really reprehensible. N is a terrible person.

pg 18: "The import of the situation crashed down on me"
--what about all the "look behind you?" I thought something was happening?

pg 19: "He pulled me away from near the restaurant to the passenger seat of my car."
--and? This is sort of an abrupt end to the chapter. What's the punchline, so to speak?

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@Mandamon

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Right now, I'm  completely turned off from N. She's knows what she's doing and seems to be okay with aiding literal evil in taking people's souls. Why? How did she get here? Why does she seem so normal?

1) She does know what she's doing. I have an idea as to why it's not literal evil. 

2) The why and how is going to be the focus of the story. On the other hand, I have no idea her motives. Which is a problem, obviously. That may also help with your character issue. Also, I did a bit of research about why decent people do horrible things. Think like Nazis. Also look up Milgram's experiment. Etc. I'm not saying that they apply here, but it's possible to occur.

3) She is normal. You know, other than her situation. 

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

There were also a lot of sections where this went between present tense and past tense, and also a lot of questions sentences without question marks. There are also a lot of places where N says she's keeping personal details from R, but the story is loaded with them. I assume R knows all about her.

1) I originally wrote this in present then tried to convert it to past tense. I guess I missed a bunch of instances. Thanks.

2) Personal details. She tries. No one ever said that she's any good at it. 

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--I'm a little confused. N seems to like the demon as a friend, but is routinely horrified by the demon-like things he does?

 

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--yeah, I'm sort of confused/concerned that her friend is a demon. Half the time she seems put off by him, and half the time doesn't care that he's a literal embodiment of evil.

I'm still trying to find the balance there. 

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--she never said he was...

Remnant of an earlier version.

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--...that's really reprehensible. N is a terrible person.

Fair. Again, I'm still trying to figure out why she's doing this which may or may not change how horrible she is.

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--what about all the "look behind you?" I thought something was happening?

That was a poor attempt at a distraction.

20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--and? This is sort of an abrupt end to the chapter. What's the punchline, so to speak?

Late in, out early. I guess that didn't work.

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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "no indication of my personality" I'm picturing that everything was bought from Ross. A damaged apartment wall and a less-than-stellar superintendent strikes me as more of a Ross-bland apartment than a Better Homes and Garden fancy look. 

Pg 1, " I had left a few dishes" This doesn't feel like the MC is setting up for a party and is shoving all of their mess into the bedroom. This feels more like they're planning to stage their death or something.

Pg 1, " pulled out a bottle of baby powder" *Visible confusion* Why baby powder??? This would be strange for dusting fingerprints for.

Pg 1, " any other powder(hyphen)like substance" Better baby powder than cocaine. 

Pg 1, "I’m not even sure why I own baby powder." Me neither. Does it keep away T? Or does our MC have sixteen year old baby powder from when T was a baby?

Pg 1, "I put the baby powder back in the cabinet." So I think our MC does know why they own baby powder. I think it might be better to smoosh some sentences so that it's more like, "I don't know why I own baby powder when literally any other powder-like substance would work." 

Pg 3, " I quickly rushed the books into my bedroom" I think I know what's going on!!! Our MC wants everything to be as bland as possible so that the demon I assume they are going to summon won't be able to have any power over them by guessing weaknesses!

Pg 3, " The blinds on my window were shut," Yeah, I don't think you want the neighbors seeing this.

Pg 4, " save a single chain strap slung over its muscular shoulder, with a small pouch dangling from the end" Did you mean to make this sound like a fashionable purse?

Pg 4, " a bad shakespearean ripoff?" Shakespearean should be capitalized, yeah?

Pg 5, " I gave him a fierce hug." Well, that was unexpected.

Pg 5, "a twenty minute drive" Can R shapeshift or illusion himself into something a little more...human? Otherwise I pity the waiter/waitress. Unless he's all like, "No, this is just cosplay! For a convention!" 

Pg 5, "personal information to use against me." Does this mean that I'm right about my earlier assumption? Making the apartment look nice for company and a bit more? I guess they aren't so buddy-buddy. Almost thought this was going to be a "My uncle/father/boyfriend is a demon" story.

Pg 6, "a slightly pudgy man with thick hair and a jovial smile" That's not what I was expecting, but it is somehow better.

Pg 7, “Have you ever tried to resist a succubus?” Wait, I thought he was just being flattering earlier. Is she literally a succubus?

Pg 7, "beautiful blue chevy spark" Chevy Spark should be capitalized.

Pg 8, “Yeah, I have a license.” I still wouldn't trust that license.

Pg 9, "Then she froze." Did R catch her staring and do something?

Pg 10, "He uncovered a bowl of salad" I am pleasantly surprised.

Pg 12, "Can you show me the tax forms" That's hilarious. 

Pg 14, " world wars and vietnam and all that" I'm going to chalk up the tense errors, the random loss of capitalizations, and lack of question marks at the end of some dialogues as draft errors and focus on the story. 

Pg 17, "a revolver tucked into her waistband" I don't think that's a woman I want to talk to.

Pg 18, "She doesn’t want you, though." Hmmm...so why does she want N? Doesn't seem like a job offer.

Pg 19, "He’s not my boyfriend." This is completely out of left field for me. I see above that it is a leftover from an earlier version. Makes sense.

Pg 20, "I may not like the idea much more than trafficking people, but it’s legal and pays well." I'm going to assume that the only reason it's legal is cause some poor sap sold his soul. How did N get into such nasty business? I mean, with the rather lighthearted way this story was going, I might have assumed that the selling of souls were going to take a more humorous cast, but being compared to trafficking people...well, that's dark. What's N's stake in all of this? I mean, N hasn't sold her soul, and what has occurred in her life to make her keep a job that is incredibly dangerous and doesn't pay all that well, considering her phone and apartment. 

Pg 21, "She advanced forward a step" I was expecting R to step in and whap L over the head from the "Look behind you" remark, but I guess it washer poor attempt at a distraction?

Pg 22, “This is all just so you could get my soul,” So, wait, R set this up?

Pg 22, " You can’t pledge your soul if you’re incapable of coherent thought.” He didn't set this up? Slightly confused.

What could happen:

Honestly, I'm unsure, mostly because I'm slightly confused by the tone of this story. I thought it was going to be a Good Omens-esque story filled with humor about an accountant and her demon friend, but then the ending came around and I'm not sure. Is R betraying her? Is N about to get her soul somehow stole from her? Is this going to get dark? 

 

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6 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 22, " You can’t pledge your soul if you’re incapable of coherent thought.” He didn't set this up? Slightly confused.

No, R's being brutally honest about why he's helping N.

7 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

I thought it was going to be a Good Omens-esque story filled with humor about an accountant and her demon friend, but then the ending came around and I'm not sure.

I'm aiming for something kind of like Good Omens, but something a bit grimmer, I think.

8 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 7, “Have you ever tried to resist a succubus?” Wait, I thought he was just being flattering earlier. Is she literally a succubus?

That's an idiom.

9 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 14, " world wars and vietnam and all that" I'm going to chalk up the tense errors, the random loss of capitalizations, and lack of question marks at the end of some dialogues as draft errors and focus on the story. 

Yep. My brain is still working in first person present tense. ;) 

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Almost caught up!

Overall

It's a neat concept, definitely. The arc of the story is what I'm not sure on. I also don't know what the plot or purpose was. What does our MC want? Why is she the demon's accountant? What does she get out of it? Why did she agree to it? What is the purpose of the story? What are her challenges and how does she deal with them or overcome them at the end?

For your question "what is going to happen and why," I don't know, because I don't know where the story is going. I need more motivations before I can even hazard a guess. Again, I really enjoyed the premise, but I think knowing she was his accountant like in the first page or two would have been excellent, leaving more space then for building stakes and a plot.

As I go

- some redundancy and tense changes in that first paragraph, making for a bit of a rough start

- pg 1: those are some fancy cabinets if they have mahogany veneer!

- pg 3 and we don't have any clear direction for the narrative, nor motivation. It's getting harder to stay focused

- pg 3: lots of tense changes in this page, too

- pg 5: this is starting to get the feel of one of those dirty Krampus books and I'm so here for it

- pg 7: while I'm amused, I'm still antsy. I have no idea what the actual plot is, or the main character's motivations. That makes it hard to stay interested and focused

- pg 9: we definitely do not need an entire page on them eating food.

- pg 11: tense change problems again through here

- pg 11: so she's the demon's accountant? 

- pg 19: you have 'burnt flush' when I think its 'burnt flesh' you wanted

 

 

 

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Thanks @kais for the comments. Most of your comments I addressed earlier. 

9 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 5: this is starting to get the feel of one of those dirty Krampus books and I'm so here for it

I'm afraid I have no idea what this is. Can you tell me?

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On 7/31/2020 at 11:16 AM, kais said:

behold the wonder/horror

Wrong Genre. I have no idea about the style.

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On 8/1/2020 at 7:52 PM, Turin Turambar said:

Wrong Genre

Ah, but is holiday demon erotica ever the right genre?

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I can't believe I'm even having this conversation. :o 

(I find myself using more and more emojis. They're horribly pervasive, like an infestation of Terry Pratchett novels. You enjoy them enough, but can't seem to stop reading them.)

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Okay, not sure what the time frame is, so I decided to just read through and aim to catch up.

These are overview comments rather than the full critique I would normally do because, time, although there may be random drafting comments because, grammar.

That's not what 'unsurpassing' means.

There's a pretty strong voice on the first page, and I'm interested to see what prompted the tidying up, but it's verging on losing my interest. Not least because of the title of the chapter, 'Lunch', which is not very evocative.

"It only remained on display because I thought that the random lines on canvas was ridiculous and idiotic" - Yep, okay, I've lost patience with the character, because (a) the picture are not strait, and (b) who puts art on their wall that they think is idiotic? An idiot.

Tense is pretty ragged. Not consistent.

"I was sure that at any moment the springs would burst through the thin padding of the seat" - But they've been living with this sofa for how long? Seems very strange. Also, is this character male or female, young or old? I get not real sense of their situation, other than the daughter.

"when I realised that I forgot my bookshelf" - No. I'm done.

I've read two pages and I have no idea what the story is about, who the story is about, or why I should care about this person at all, in any way. There nothing in those two pages for me to care about, invest in, and the narrative is largely unfocussed, darting around describing random details of the room that have no significance to me. 

The first page, the first paragraph, the first line of a story needs to grip the reader and draw them in, give them a character to root for and a situation / setup to engage them. I'm afraid I get none of that here.

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On 03/08/2020 at 11:58 PM, Turin Turambar said:

like an infestation of Terry Pratchett novels

No such thing. I think the collective term for Pratchett novels is a 'blessing', or possibly a 'chortle', maybe even a 'guffaw' of Pratchett novels.

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42 minutes ago, Robinski said:

The first page, the first paragraph, the first line of a story needs to grip the reader and draw them in, give them a character to root for and a situation / setup to engage them. I'm afraid I get none of that here.

Fair - I don't blame you. 

43 minutes ago, Robinski said:

"It only remained on display because I thought that the random lines on canvas was ridiculous and idiotic" - Yep, okay, I've lost patience with the character, because (a) the picture are not strait, and (b) who puts art on their wall that they think is idiotic? An idiot.

She actually had it up because she wanted her apartment to look generic and bland. 

43 minutes ago, Robinski said:

"I was sure that at any moment the springs would burst through the thin padding of the seat" - But they've been living with this sofa for how long? Seems very strange. Also, is this character male or female, young or old? I get not real sense of their situation, other than the daughter

The apartment was supposed to be oldish and kind of run down.

44 minutes ago, Robinski said:

Tense is pretty ragged. Not consistent.

I changed tense from present to past (and in the second draft from third person to first) but missed a ton of instances.

 

You aren't the only one to have problems. I think I fixed some of the primary issues in my second attempt at it, but I completely understand if you don't want to brave it again/at all.. 

 

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12 hours ago, Turin Turambar said:

You aren't the only one to have problems. I think I fixed some of the primary issues in my second attempt at it, but I completely understand if you don't want to brave it again/at all.

No, no, I shall definitely read it. There's a great Dresden vibe about the idea, and lots of crunchy noir-classical mashup possibilities for this story that can be really fun.

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