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TheDwarfyOne

240820 - TheDwarfyOne - Chapter One (V) - 2833 words

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Previously:

Prologue: P fights some desert tribesmen. When tackling I about his late arrival, it turns out that one tribesman survived. After some dialogue and conflict, it becomes apparent that he possesses a potentially dangerous artifact. P takes it and leaves an angry I behind.
 
Meeeeaning, this is Chapter One again. Sorry. I'm indulging my supervillain side. I swear I've written more stuff than this.
Pinky swear.
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There's an interesting hook in here with the artifact getting stolen, but I'm sort of confused by people's reactions to each other, and the reactions in general. Several times there were weighted descriptions of reactions (like the one on pg 4) that didn't seem to mean much, or were hard to understand. I'm also confused by how At. goes blabbing about his job to everyone who can hear and is then surprised when he gets attacked for it, but then is suddenly suspicious of the people who are helping him. It seems inconsistent.

Overall, an enjoyable read. I thing the reactions can be fixed fairly easily.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "gawked aristocratically"
--not sure I can picture this.

pg 1: "revesced mail"
--Not sure what this is either.

pg 1: "But that had been before."
--You already said this was when he was young, so I don't how much this sentence adds. It just makes me ask, "before what?"

pg 2: "The admission came with surprising ease. Was it because he trusted H?"
--It's pretty obvious he trusts H, because he's an old teacher and he's interjected himself in the conversation. Could probably cut both these sentences or replace with a more visceral reaction.

pg 2: "gave me a job. A dangerous one"
--he's saying all this stuff in front of the other people at the table? Should it be secret?

pg 2: oh, so "revesc-" is a magic term? Ah. explained a few sentences down.

pg 4: "The words carried a weight, as if they were significant to the man."
--I'm...not really sure what this means. It was a simple question. Also, I guess there are people who overheard.

pg 4: "We need to talk but he doesn’t know where to contact me.”
--he's really trusting about just handing out all his information and a description of his work to a stranger.

pg 5: "Do not go further."
--That's pretty clear from the last sentence.

pg 7: Ath. is quick to run after At. Might be more believable if they shared more than a few sentences.

pg 8: "At. moved to stand between him and E."
--Now he tries to block a strange from helping? Who knows medicine? Why?

pg 8: “I don’t really have a choice, do I?"
--he's trusted everyone he's met so far...

pg 9: "Like all aristocrats, it seemed Ath could put on a show"
--what show?

pg 10: “Okay. I will help.”
--he...wasn't asked to help and At. seems to suspect him (now, though not before for some reason...). There are some weird difference in trust in this chapter.

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Overall

I didn't get any real connection with characters or see any plot. The loss of the artifact is the inciting incident, I assume? If so, I'd start there on the street, with the mugging. Have him think about killing his mother in there somewhere, then think he has the artifact in his pocket, just to find out they took it at the end of the chapter. That would make a very compelling chapter one and establish our plot (find the artifact) and give us some backstory on the MC (maybe he is super killing averse because he killed his mom??)

 

As I go

- pg 3: It's been mostly dialogue and words I don't know through here. I still don't have a sense of the world or the main character at all and by page three I would like to

- pg 4: That first section seems to exist to tell us that the MC killed his mother when he was ten. I think this could be delivered in one to two sentences, either via dialogue or having him think about it, in a  scene where more is going on. It's too many pages for one line

- pg 9: It's hard not to skim through here. I'm still trying to get some sense of character or plot or any kind of arc to the chapter

- pg 10: “Because,” A said, sudden anger partly twisting his words into a snarl. “They took the artifact.” <--- we already know this, so as a last line it doesn't deliver any punch

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Hi!

1) gawked aristocratically - sounds like an oxymoron statement to me...

1) betrayed the hunger of their class - the prose is confusing here. I think I know what you mean, but I'm still scratching my head in confusion.

1) but that had been before - before what? I'm not invested enough in the story to care yet, so this just pushes me out rather than pulls me in. A couple more words might be enough to ease the confusion while still keeping the mystery.

2) I'm not sure if your description of revescents is genius or mediocre. I could figure out what they were from context but I'm left unsatisfied. That might just be me.

3) That T. She'll sense if we phrase our objection properly - ok...these are meaningless words right now.

3) possibilities, heretical ones. why are they heretical. I don't even know what this artifact is/does.

3) Is this man Lunamor in disguise? (I'm joking, obviously.)

4) Woman. Who is she? What does she care - unless she's a relative of his.

Well, that was in medias res. I thought that it was a cool angle. I stopped focusing on a line-by-line and started to focus on the whole story once he left the thingy. On the other hand, I feel like you dumped so much of the world on me in one shot, I'm drowning. You use the word 'revescent' like you think I know what it means, and I know absolutely nothing about it. It's some kind of illusion magic, but more than that...

I like what the details give me, but it's hard to get anything at all, because it's all fragmented. The last thing that was hard to work through was the prose. It's pretty in its own way, not purple at all, in my opinion, but it's difficult to get through. Also: Ath's speach is difficult to follow and is jarring. Don't ask me how Brandon pulled it off with Rock and Spook, but even the slight difference than normal is really annoying.

In summation: Starting in the middle of the mess was both a boon and a bane - I want to see what happens, but at the same time, there's so many little details that makes it hard to follow. The prose is pretty, though it's hard to follow.

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1) Across the room, tiered platforms moulded into the walls - I know passive is discouraged, but the way this is written makes me imagine the platforms are moving

2) I am to use my skills and abilities to research an artifact - sounds a bit awkward

2) I got lost on page 2 when they started talking about the artifact. H's reaction is a little inconsistent, and though it was said that the play was of no importance, it is being described often. 

3) “Care to give me one?” - Why did A bother to get At a drink? I'm confused by the characters that follow, too. Who are At and the woman to ask and challenge a prince?

5) pitting it against his fear - makes me interested to know his backstory 

5) He strode down it, muttering an oath to himself - Do we need to know this if it's not explained? It doesn't tell me much

6) said the accented voice in a tone of adrenaline-laden relief - contradicting?

6) He groaned and felt rather than saw their attention focus on him... A closed his eyes, wishing the world would stop
spinning, that he could think - A got shoved to the ground and was hit (?) in the ribs... is it due to pain that he can't see or think straight?

7) a sticky substance had covered them - this explains it. Maybe mention it earlier? After that, he kind of just ignores this substance that's still on his eyes?

10) At leant back, nodding slowly. “Okay. I will help.” - Why? Who is this guy? What did A need to talk to him about, all the way in his study, and trust him being there?

I got what going on with the basics in plot and hook, more or less, but completely lost as to who the characters are or why they are there. The only character I feel I'm getting to know a little or am curious about his A, but he's not very likable. That he isn't quite prince-like is interesting, but he also seems kind of cold, just staring at the filthy ground his assistant is in lying instead of helping. I like your writing and I think I could like A once I get to know his story more, but in this draft I'm mostly just confused. 

 

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This is wildly different from the last draft! Well done trying some bold changes and not being afraid to do intensive rewriting. 

The exposition was a little dense for me but I was following it. 

I didn't get sidelined until the name Tris pops up, and then I recovered by jumping ahead a little and putting it together. 

My impression of the stage show was something like an ancient holo-screen. 

The action of the fight/attack was a little murky for me. I can understand wanti g to skim over the violence if that's not something you want to write but it was a little confusing. 

The 'Okay' in the last line felt out of place with the rest of the language in the story.

I agree that the characters could use some more meat on their bones, but I found this version of the beginning much more appealing than the last version. 

May the prose be with you!

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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 5, " the Faith Rover flowed deep and silent" It's the Land Rover but for water ;) 

Pg 6, "He drew out the artifact." I admit, I question this, but it may be because the prologue is a little fuzzy in my head. I know the artifact is incredibly dangerous, but does A? Why is his first instinct to pull the artifact out of his pocket instead of running and screaming or throwing something? Magic? Instinct? He definitely doesn't strike me as the sort who charges into danger. He doesn't have any plans to bargain with it. I dunno, for me, this feels like pulling out your car keys. Might be good for some stabbing, but without the car to actually mow the guys over, you're kind of screwed. That's a terrible metaphor. Do you understand what I'm getting at?

Pg 7, " seeing a fair-haired face above" You know, I'm honestly impressed. I suck at names. I would have been like, "Theater boy?" 

Something that I think can help set the stakes is why losing the artifact is so important to A. Is it victory to his people? A dangerous weapon for their enemies? Something that can trigger mass destruction? Otherwise, I have little to add that hasn't already been said :) 

I think you're taking great steps forward from when you first submitted this story. Keep going!

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As I go:

P1: This may be because I didn’t read the prologue (sorry!) but I don’t understand what r-mail is. Later in the sub it becomes apparent that it’s a fantasy product, but at first I thought it was just a typo.

“They were all peacocks…” I like this description.  

P2 It’s kind of interesting that Ata is apparently entirely willing to have this conversation in the open, in front of a bunch of people. I guess that it’s not very secret or controversial. But since we have those other people nominally in the scene, it might be interesting to see their reactions to give us a sense of how this mission, artifact, etc, fit into the context of the  world.

Why does H keep saying “ward”?

P3: “Waitress” strikes me as something of an anachronistic word. I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge deal on general principle, but the style of the chapter so far seems to be leaning fairly heavily into the slightly older language that some fantasy stories use, so it is noticeable here.

Why is Ata giving this young man a drink instead of the waitress doing it?

P4: “He killed his mother…” this line of dialogue feels a little as-you-know-Bob. This might be a little too particular, but I think it’s often hard to get qualifying information into dialogue without invoking that feeling. I could see “his mother” OR “the king’s aunt” being believable, but squeezing both in there is harder.

Also, I was getting “did something reasonably scandalous” level of contempt for Ata, not “matricide.”  I think this comes back to not having a very good sense of what the other people in this scene are doing.

Next scene. At coming onto the scene just as he happens to hear a scream feels a little coincidental, especially since At then happens to be rescued in more or less the same way as he was attempting to rescue E. I can buy Ath having followed Ata, though I’m not remotely clear on why, but having it happen twice in the same scene is a bit much for me. Since E apparently works for Ata, you could perhaps alter the scene to have him discover them in their place of work, or whatever, rather than hearing someone scream in the street that just happens to be someone he knows.

P8 “… Ata moved to stand between him and E.” Why? Wasn’t that the whole point of getting someone to help?

“…who grinned and nodded…” I’m confused as to why grinning, nodding, and whistling is appropriate here?

For someone who was fairly insistent on talking to Ath, he now seems fairly intent on paying more attention to his transcription than the person he wants to question.

Overall:

Generally speaking, I wanted a little more sense of the emotional word of the POV characters. There are some instances where this comes across very well, but it’s usually in specific lines like a piece of dialogue; otherwise, even when discussing what seems like something that should colour the characters’ opinions of what they’re doing, the narrative feels very matter-of-fact.

The other major thing I wanted was more of a sense of what the characters around the POV character were doing. Generally the narrative felt very focused in on the POV and whoever the POV happened to be talking to at the moment, and the world around the people “in focus” felt mostly non-existent.

 

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Hey, remember me? :unsure: I'm sidling in here sheepishly to leave some comments in the hope that are still of some use. Trying to get back into the swing of critiquing.

I've emailed LBLs back to you. I've extracted key comment below, and expanded on them a bit from the notes in the Word file.

(page 1)

- Opening two paragraphs: I'm not really interested in the description. Honestly, it's not that compelling and does not 'wow' me, grip me, drag me into the story. I'm interested in character. Start with character, IMO. Compounded by which, I found the description a bit confusing, hard to picture the scene.

- "crystal goblets and swirled them" - Everyone did? Bizzare image. It's kind of a cliche in the first place, but for the all to do it seems weird.

(page 2)

- "He ignored them." - And yet clearly he didn't he paid enough attention to notice how they all reacted, and then he reacted to their stares. Okay, he ignores them now, but it rang odd to me after their reaction was described.

- "The SK's search for the gods" - Sounds Wagnerian to me!! ;) 

- "He knew his old master well" - This is a theme for me in the style. I feel there are several instances of comments that are obvious, and bring nothing to the story. In this instance, if you say it's his old master, the reader will presume he knows him well, at the very least, so this is just extra wordage that adds very little. I'm not saying don't say it, but it needs to be compelling, a surprising metaphor, a clever simile, or conveying backstory or plot or something. Every word needs to work as hard as possible. There is no room for deadwood, even in a novel, especially not in the first chapter.

- "revesc..." - The word is used more than once in the first page or two. I have no idea what this word means, and there is no context, I can't deduce if it's magic, science, local tradition, spiritual. I'm not saying insert a definition, I feel I need something. It does become clearer on Page 2, as the word is used several time. As an example to help me explain my rambling, the first reference might say 'silver mail, created by rev--essence (if that's the word for it).

- Description: some of it is quite bland. e.g. "The mixture of colours which composed the scene below changed" Compare that with "sword as he speared it into a phantasmal enemy’s midriff." I know all work needs polish. This is something that ran through the sub, I think. There were some really nice lines, but I think the style and (authorial) voice are, intermittent at the moment.

(page 3)

- "The artefact only reacts..." - I'm on Page 3, and I'm not really grabbed by the premise or the character. I've mentioned the weakness (IMO) of the opening line and paragraph, but even three pages in I'm not grabbed by the story, or the MC. I'm not expecting the novel to open with a sword fight (please, no). Imagine me sitting in my chair: I want something to grab me, give me a good shake and make me turn those pages. I just don't feel it's there at the moment. The opening scene is two men talking. There's little tension in that opening scene. There's a bit about Ata being reviled, but I don't think it really lands, not sure the reader has enough to latch onto it. A problem I've had for a while (which I'm working on), is not giving the reader enough. There is a time for telling (in a creative way), and the opening of the story is somewhere the reader needs enough info to be gripped.

Also, the artefact is not mentioned till Page 2, but it's the MacGuffin that the whole book revolves around, is it not? I'd look to get it on Page 1, up near the front, and really sell the reader on its significance, the dark portents, the implications for the world: this could change everything, it could rock the church, topple the monarchy, whatever. As noted earlier, grab the reader, drag them right into the heart of the character and his motivations.

Style: I'm not really getting much in the way of character voice. I'm looking for Ata's personality to shine through and engage me, make me interested in him. Maybe he's a bland sort of chap, without great personality, which doesn't bode that well for the story, but I'm looking to be able to feel his spirit, get the flavour of his emotions, which I'm not getting much of. The people around him are more expressive and therefore I'm paying more attention to them.

Also, his motivations. I don't think they come through especially clearly. What drives him? There are hints about resenting the church, but what does he want? This is what I need wright up front: What does the M/C want (and why)?

- Confusion: I think there is some confusion in small details describing the movement of the people. e.g. "reached out, snatching up a goblet before the waitress moved away" - Why would the waitress move away when someone (Ath) has requested a drink? She's going to move torwards the new guy, surely? Ata's intervention seems strange to me, illogical.

- Names: Why do the names of the M/C and the chap that (later) seems about to become his sidekick, have to start with the same two letters? This is confusing and I will be likely to confuse who is speaking or acting. There's no need for it.

(page 4)

- "Nobody else in this LT would ever do that" - The staff would, and do, every day. The performers do. I dislike this superior, and out-of-touch fop already.

- Excellent description of the woman who chimes in, and this tends to highlight other areas where the description is weak. BUT the majority issue here is that she drops a bombshell about Ata, that he's a killer, and it's completely brushed under the carpet for the rest of the chapter. This for me comes into the bracket of other things that are not really dealt with in any depth, but mentioned then skipped past: the artefact, the 'magic' system (rev--essence), now the M/C's background. I think maybe what's missing is the M/C's internal monologue, he is emotional reaction and motivation towards these various thing. We barely here his voice, his mind, at all. It's mostly dialogue which really doesn't reveal much at all about him and his motivations.

- "Tell Har I've left" - Ah, now, I remember this from a previous version that I read, when Ata opened up to these two complete strangers in the bar, telling them all sorts of stuff about himself. This is not as problematic as that scene was, but still...Why would he ask a complete stranger to give a message to his mentor? It makes no sense to me, doesn't seem believable behaviour., and leads me to another theme that I trouble me. I feel there are several instance of plot convenience. This if the first one. It feels to me that it's an odd thing that happens because the plot needs it to happen. Is it there for Ata to give Ath the card (which appears later)? It feels clunky to me.

- Confusion over details: "open the doors which had separated him from the city streets" - Another example of this. A theatre like this, I doubt completely, would have one set of doors straight out onto the street. Apart from anything else, I thought he was on a level up in the air, and the performers were below the level that Har was on? So, it's a long way down to the street, is it not? Or (had a quick scan back at Page 1) he's up on a higher floor, on a platform? He doesn't come down any stairs before going outside. It confused me, anyway.

- Pronoun confusion: There are several instances (tagged in the LBLs) where I think the use of 'it' and 'he' create confusion about what is being described (it), or who is talking or acting (he). I think as a rule 'it' or 'he' will logically apply to the last entity named. This led me into confusion on a few occasions, mostly in scenes between Ata and Ath, and who was talking.

(page 5)

- "irregular vein of sunlight" - Because there was a theatrical performance going on, I assumed it was evening, this threw me for a loop?

- Plot convenience: I felt his assistant being mugged was HUGELY convenient from a plot perspective. In a whole city of people, a person intimiately connected with him is mugged at the very moment that he happens to be walking close by? It felt really forced to me. Does it need to be his assistant? If it's a stranger, the whole scene is transformed into something plausible. Also, does it need to be a woman? We're verging on knight-in-shining-armour cliche territory here, I feel. BUT, maybe the problem is actually that we don't get any internal monologue (referred to above), which is important to help the reader process confusion by the MC asking questions, and maybe answering them, even if the answer is wrong. So, in this example, Ata's assistant gets mugger. This sort of thing would have helped me: 'What was she doing here? It made no sense. Had she come to find him and been waylaid? Had they kidnapped her and come to threaten him?' This is brought and ready, but just trying to illustrate my point.

(page 6)

- "They obeyed." - Nice line. Well done. I like how it surprised me.

- "his mother's kiss" - Eh? No idea what this is about. Without context or explanation, I just have to ignore this.

(page 10)

- "Okay. I will help." - Annoying and presumptuous. This cements my dislike of Ath.

OVERALL 

There is lots of interest in the story, in this version as in previous ones. I think because of the issues I had, this reads more like a later chapter than an opening one, and that it needs more depth to be compelling as a first chapter. Maybe more depth, more character, expansion of the important details and expulsion (to later chapters) of the details that don't add to the opening.

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