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julienreel

3/15/2021 - julienreel - Legend of the Four-fold Kingdom: Ch 2 (L) - 3796 words

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Hey everyone. I know the first chapter needs a lot of revision still, but I didn't want to get too repetitive so I thought I'd go ahead with the second chapter.
A lot of what happens in this chapter was in the first version of the first chapter. Originally, a lot more was going to happen, but the chapter became too long, so I cut it into 2 parts.
I'm open to all feedback, but I also want to hear your answers to the following questions:
Do you get the sense that the plot is moving forward with this chapter?
Is the dialogue less stilted than it was in my past submissions?
Are you at all invested in Aurelius as a character (his plight etc.)?
Thanks!
It's been a real busy last couple of weeks, so sorry if I haven't given feedback on all the other submissions. I am reading them.

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Hello! I’m new to the group so I haven’t seen chapter 1, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on from reading this chapter.

Overall thoughts:

The plot comes across as quite tropey. This might be a matter of personal taste, but I felt like there wasn’t a hook. The plot is moving, but I’m not sold on it yet. What makes this story special?

The characters are a bit two-dimensional. I assume from how he is presented that Au is our protagonist, but he seems very passive here. He tags along while Mr G does all the work. This makes Mr G more interesting than Au in my opinion, which is probably not what you were going for. I also feel like I don’t know anything about Au beyond that he loves his family and is in way over his head. That makes it hard to be invested in Au and his problems.

The Count comes across as moustache-twirly. It’s a bit cartoonish. I think his dialogue is 99% of the problem there. 

Mr G is the character who works best here, for me. He’s competent, resourceful and drives the plot for this chapter. It’s interesting that he is willing to put his life at risk to make sure Au escapes with him. His relationship with D feels more fleshed out than his relationship with Au - I’m not completely sure what Au means to Mr G, beyond the fact that he’s important to him.

I think the dialogue does have some issues. Part of it is that you have some modernisms (eg ‘so-called’ and ‘okay’) slipping through otherwise old-timey language. Part of it is punctuation - you might want to change up some of those commas and full stops. (That problem creeps into some of the prose, too). Another reason it feels off to me is that characters often straight-up state what they feel or want instead of reacting organically. 

This might be another matter of taste, but I also felt there was a problem with tension during this chapter. Au and Mr G move from one bad situation to the next very quickly, with no complications or reversals. We are told that what they’re doing is risky and that Au is scared, but everything they do works as they intend on the first try. By the end of the chapter, it feels like they were never in any real danger of failing. It killed the suspense for me. 

Small things:

pg 1 - ‘a voice that Au oddly recognised’ and ‘Au became silent’ both awkward phrasing. Maybe ‘fell silent’?

pg 2 - in Count’s dialogue, saying ‘I don’t appreciate...’ and ‘I’m not so ruthless...’ feels stilted for him to state these sentiments directly.

pg 5 - ‘his servant also’ awkward phrasing

pg 5 - ‘opened the door slowly and peaked in’ I think you mean ‘peeked’

pg 8 - ‘down the backside of the hill’ back side is two words or it means butt :)   You could use ‘far side’ instead

pg 8 - you’re missing a “ on some of Mr G’s dialogue 

pg 11 - D’s name sticks out. I know it’s Italian, but the other names are exotic-sounding enough that running into a guy named D seems weird.

pg 14 - ‘spent the last ten years smuggling’ is this something D should be saying to a man he hasn’t seen in 20 years? 

Also, D repeats himself a lot about his retirement. Unless it’s an important plot point, I don’t think it needs to be hammered in quite that much.

I hope that helps!

 

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Overall

Things are moving forward, which is nice. But it still just reads like a trope book, but it's now clear you aren't leaning into them. Hence, I don't have much motivation to keep reading because I know what happens. With that, there is no tension. 

Same issues with stilted dialogue and two-dimensional characters as before. You might try reading your text out loud. How does it sound to your ears? Is that the way you would speak?

For your other question, no, I'm not invested in our MC because he appears to be the lead in a dime store novel. I've not yet had any sense that he is in danger, especially with how this chapter ended with them getting to escape the town with really no effort at all.

Again, I think you'd be best served if you turned this into a silly trope book. Lean into the tropes you're using. Add more. Make it borderline ridiculous so we enjoy it for the tropes, not in spite of them.

 

As I go:

- This...still reads like you're trying to riff old trope books. The writing is so lean and the characters sort of cardboard cutouts. There's a richness missing to the storytelling that would let this stand on its own. Or you could lean into the trope.

- pg 3: My skin can become as hard as stone <-- wait what now? Out of nowhere

- pg 3: well that was a very easy escape. Very convenient the digging was already done. There's no real tension here because thus far everything has been easy, or trope-silly

- pg 6: being caught by a stone man would be just as bone breaking as falling onto the ground. Possibly moreso, if there is grass

- pg 6: and both men suffered <-- isn't one of them a boy? Because everyone certainly treats him like one, and his voice is juvenile

- pg 8: they're running around outside now but I have no feel for the greater world at all. I think a lot of that richness I mentioned before is just general lack of world building. What does their town look like? Who rules it? Is there magic? Is it like 1800s, or 2045?

- pg 8: He felt trapped and useless. His entire family was at the mercy of Count Cri and there was nothing he could do about it. <-- I'd much rather get this through his actions and impatience than be told about it

- pg 9: I sense any risk at all to my comfortable life, I’ll abandon you <-- this whole dialogue chain just seems plot convenient. The guy helping them is barely two dimensional and speaks like someone, again, mocking a trope

 

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Pg 1:

“a voice that A oddly recognized”  oddly seems like a strange word here. It doesn’t seem like it would be odd that A would recognize the voice.  He just wouldn’t be expecting it to be there.

“…can’t very well let you go. But I’m not so ruthless…”  if he let the parents go, why can’t he let A- go?  What’s he planning to do with A- or Mr. G- long term if he isn’t planning to release or kill them?  How long has he had to “think of something better”?

Does the count have any reason for coming down to check on them? It seems like he just comes down to say hi then leave again. 

Pg 3:

“…escape just after sunrise before they bring us breakfast.”   Why after sunrise (losing cover of dark) but before breakfast?  Aren’t they likely to need food? And if they know someone is coming to bring breakfast, that person will definitely notice they’re missing.

Pg 4:

“But you’re an Aug-“ Is this the first time we would have seen this term? I know it was briefly mentioned in one of the versions of chapter 1, but if that will be changing to Maria’s PoV, will we have any idea what this means?  I’m also a little torn about the phrasing of “an Aug-“ It feels strange to have an adjective as a proper noun.

“count will not awake until evening”  Well that gives reason for them to wait until sunrise.  But it might be worth mentioning that when Mr. G is talking about his plans to leave above.  It still doesn’t keep the breakfast-bringer from noticing they’re gone, though.  

Pg 5:

How far of a drop are we talking here? Catching slows the deceleration — basically spreading the impact force for the deceleration to take place over a larger amount of time instead of hitting full force on the ground— but that force that is being dispersed is still going somewhere. In this case into Mr. G- If he’s in stone form, he’s not going to provide much cushion for a fall, and if he’s not in stone form, his arms and body taking the force of the fall is going to do damage as well. If it’s a long enough fall, and isn’t cushioned properly, one or both of them is still going to be at just as much risk of injury as if they both just jumped down separately.

Also, I thought E- was supposed to be sleeping all day as well. 

Pg 8:

“A- wondered what Mr. G-‘s next idea would be…” In many ways, A- just seems to be along for the ride through all of this.  He wants to get to safety to find another way to rescue M-.  But he hasn’t seemed to have any thought or initiative of his own on how to do that.

Pg 9:

“…if I sense any risk at all to my comfortable life…” So…immediately, then?

Pg 10-11

This conversation seems a lot longer than it needs to be to convey the things we actually need to know.

Pg 12-13

For someone wanting to avoid suspicion, D sure does seem to be intentionally troublesome with the guards.  And the guards seem surprisingly patient when D is spiteful and argumentative for no reason while they’re trying to do their jobs.  

 

1.      Do you get a sense that the plot is moving forward? To some extent.  Physically leaving the castle helps. And the immediate goal changing from rescuing M- to escaping to rescue her another day helps.  But A- doesn’t seem to have much active involvement in making those things happen.  He would have stayed at the castle to try to rescue her if he’d had the choice. And he hasn’t really made any active decisions other than trailing along after Mr. G- since then.

2.      Is the dialogue less stilted? Not really. A lot of the text could still use a good deal of reading aloud to catch awkward wording and structure.

3.      Do you at all care about A's plight? While I care that he is trying to get to safety, to come back later to rescue M, the combination of the escape going smoothly and his not being the one to actively push the escape forward makes it harder to be engaged by his role in it.   So while on a basic level, I care about his plight, the fact that he’s just been along for the ride through this chapter doesn’t help.  He wants to get to safety. But what does he think that means? Getting home? Getting somewhere else? Right now he’s just following Mr. G-‘s lead, and we don’t know enough about where Mr. G- is taking them to know where they are headed or how that will ultimately put them in a better place to rescue M-.

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Similar thoughts to the others here. I'm not sure the archaic sort of voice works, because as the others point out, it makes the book very tropey, like it was written in the 70's or something. In a purely meta, authorial reaction, I think @kais idea to really lean in to the tropes would make this funny and enjoyable. Simply how the publishing market is now, something like this doesn't have a lot of hook for modern readers because it's in the style of stories 20-30 years ago. However, it it's making fun of that style, then people will engage with it.

In any case, either something like the above, or reading this out loud to yourself and trying to make it less stilted would help.

To your questions, the plot is moving along, but it's very standard fare. The only modern thing is how the power are presented, and I think that's why they seem to come out of nowhere. They're a more modern angle to the book, but don't really seem in place here.

I'm definitely more invested in what little we've seen of M, rather than A. A is not really in any danger. M is the one who's being carted off somewhere. I'm wondering how she's actively resisting the count's power.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 3: "“My skin can become as hard as stone"
--this sort of comes out of nowhere. We know there's magic because of the count, but that seems more like a telekinetic power. Then G. just drops this into the conversation. Are there other people with magic powers? What is A's reaction to this?

pg 3: "holds he carved out of the stone"
--I think this was in there before but got cut out this time. G never said he'd carved handholds, just that he'd chipped at the wall.

pg 4: "an Augmented"
--ok, I guess this is known. Maybe need to have a little more introduction to this before throwing it in there. If A reacts to what G tells him at first, that might help.

pg 4: "peaked" -> "peeked"

pg 6: "The Count C I knew"
--Was the explanation for this mentioned already? If not, does A react to it at all?

pg 8: "A wondered what Mr. G’s next idea would be."
--There are a few sentences like this scattered through the story. They don't really do anything, and can be cut to help keep up the tension. The next sentence, "He felt trapped and useless," pretty much carries the same meaning as the first one in this case.

pg 9: "if I sense any risk at all to my comfortable life"
--that might be a bit on the nose...Would someone actually say that?

pg 10: "perhaps the Count is not who he appears to be"
--so I guess the count wasn't a known augment? Would he have hidden a power? Is G's power open, or secret?

pg 13: "The imminent danger had passed."
--same thing here. You show A's emotion in the next sentence, but you tell it first here. This sentence can be deleted.

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1. Do you get the sense that the plot is moving forward with this chapter?

Definitely moving forward, but in many places – most, honestly – the events felt too easy. It didn’t seem like the characters encountered any real opposition, any place where I at least really believed there was a possibility they might not make it, until they got to the city and D didn’t want to help them.

2. Is the dialogue less stilted than it was in my past submissions?

It felt about the same, I think – improvement towards the end with Mr G and D snipping at each other – and the narrative tone is still pretty archaic in many places.

3. Are you at all invested in Aurelius as a character (his plight etc.)?

A little more than in previous installments, but not as much as I need to be. He isn’t a particularly emotive character (partially coming back to that old-fashioned, somewhat detached narrative voice – I called out one or two specific lines below as an example).

I’ve just gone and skimmed through some of the other comments, and I agree with those who’ve mentioned that if you’re going to draw that heavily on tropes you should be subverting them in some way. Humour is definitely one way of doing that and I think the archaic narrative voice that seems to come naturally to you could lend itself very well to that. It would also be an obvious way of modernizing the book because I could definitely see it being a barrier to marketability if it's not there for a reason.

As I read:

Right off the bat, I think the appearance of Mr. G is going to need more foreshadowing than it’s been given; I know it was mentioned that he disappeared, but this still seems abrupt (and A still seems to be taking things way more in stride than I was expecting). In the previous chapter, rather than just mentioning the fact that the teacher disappeared, I think mentioning that he was outspoken against the count and that people who are outspoken against the count have a tendency to disappears, possibly in different parts of the manuscript, would do more to make the teacher’s appearance here feel earned.

“A looked up… anger in his eyes” reads like third-person omniscient

It’s a little less overt in this draft, which helps, but the introduction of supernatural abilities being apparently relatively common seems a bit abrupt here. I think a little more setup regarding how common these types of abilities are and how they’re understood in the world before this point would go a long way.

The count seems generally more reasonable in this draft, but sticking them under the privy is still kinda cartoony. It COULD work as a kind of character-building still, I think, suggesting the count is kind of a coward who’s only outright cruel when he’s absolutely sure he can get away with it (not entirely bought into this idea yet, but could see it working) so depends on whether that’s the kind of characterization you want to go for.

“Then you go and I’ll catch you.” This might go SOME way towards breaking A’s fall, but if he’s high enough that the fall is dangerous, then he’s high enough up that the fall is dangerous even if someone else catches him.

I would like to see A be a little more active when encountering M – that’s been his goal the whole time, after all! - even if it still results in him falling form the window.

Could be WRS, sorry, but has the count actually been revealed to be a demon in this draft? If not, Mr. G’s comment at the bottom of p6, “the Count C I knew,” may be a holdover from the previous version.

“...and then receded into the distance.” I wanted a little more tension at some point during this chase/escape scene, and this seems like one missed opportunity to amp it up. Do Mr. G and A leave a trackable trail? Is there really only one way for them to go? What can happen that brings their pursuers a lot closer to catching them then they seem to get here? Right now, the outcome of the scene does not really seem to be in doubt.

“...was the city of V.” Is this the city where A lives? The way it’s introduced makes it sound like that’s not the case, but they can’t have gone far enough that there are many cities waiting conveniently at the bottom of picturesque hills.

Entrance into the city: No gates or guards? Nobody looking suspiciously as at the battered guy covered sewer as they make their way in? The city seems suspiciously empty.

“Hopefully I’ll stink less with this” … wouldn’t he stink about the same, just while also wearing a blanket?

I am delighted that D seems to want nothing to do with G and A because it’s the first real obstacle they’ve had this chapter.

“… I don’t believe this is the Count C I once knew.” Ah, there is the clarifying remark on p10. Maybe hang a lantern on Mr. G’s earlier comment, then, since I think that does make that the first time in the revised version that this idea comes up.

“It’s been twenty years since I last saw him.” This… didn’t seem to be the case from the way D greeted them? And I’d like a much stronger sense of desperation if that’s the case. This comment is the first indication I’ve had that this is a desperate move, but “it’s been 20 years I’m sure everything’s fine though” is definitely desperate.

“...possibly expect to get through the gate.” Second time the gate is mentioned now that they’re in V but there was zero mention of them having to get through a gate to begin with.

“Don’t go flapping your lips” okay D and G both trust each other way too easily

But other than the occasional moments of “But WHHHY are you even trusting each other” I think the conversation between D/G is the strongest part of the chapter.

So… that cart’s gonna smell like sewage now, yes? Since they never bothered/were never given the opportunity to clean up?

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Overall:

I don't really know about horror tropes so I can't comment that much in that regard. For me the main thing was that there wasn't anything to draw me into specific aspects or details of the story that I could see. Which I'm sure is really frustrating feedback to get, since I don't have an easy fix in mind and it's hard to point to specific examples. My recommendation is to see if you can scatter specific details about the characters especially without making the chapter much longer. Qualities that feel like it fits their character that no other character in this story would have. Right now it's hard for me to picture the story because my mind doesn't have much to latch onto. Though at the same time I don't want paragraphs of description. 

The plot is quite solid. I think this is the strongest part of the chapter. The basic series of events made a lot of sense and kept me engaged. 

I do think some aspects of the dialogue are better! For me it was strongest when G was talking with D, because that felt like a conversation that could only happen between those two characters and helped me get a feel for their dynamic. When G's explaining plot stuff to A I think there's some more room to add personality into it. 

As for A... to be blunt, not really. G is the most interesting character to me. He has secrets, agency, and strong motivations honed by his past and not something that happened last night (which therefore makes him seem consistent and strong). A has none of those qualities. If I replace A with most teen boy protags I don't think a ton changes in the story, which is generally a sign his character needs more work. 

As I go:

pg 1: a little thing is that if we already know the info A's saying, we don't need to hear it word for word again. You can fast-forward us through this. 

pg 2: hmm this isn't a tangible thing but it feels like everything here is really simple so there's not too much to engage with. Is the count lying or did he brainwash them? We don't have a ton of info either way.

pg 3: btw for what it's worth I do like the parents staying alive. Makes the sheen of the count presenting as normal feel more real 

pg 4: I feel like we're supposed to trust G's assessment here but I don't really know why. Dude is just a tutor so far as we know, right? Does A think there's more to it than that?

pg 5: the point about his body withstanding the jump piques my interest more than anything else so far. Now it's clear the guy isn't normal. I think the story was going for that with resisting the mind control but I didn't interpret that as a superhuman action

pg 7: I get A is out of his depth and it's fine for him to be like this for the first few chapters but his character isn't gripping me. I think it's the combo of not really doing anything and his only desires being wanting to do something pretty foolish (go back and save his family). I want to feel like this is the start of a character arc but as is I don't quite see it. 

pg 8: bottom of the page is one of the first moments of internality we get from A. This is good, and I personally want to see this coalesce into a concrete plan (it can be a dumb plan if you want, something like "I will go back and save my family once I'm armed" just as an example)

pg 9: This is the chance for A to shine. What he's saying here is pretty generic and doesn't really show of his specific social skills. 

pg 11: This is tricky for me to critique because I can see that all the pieces are there (military friend from long ago who is now kinda distant is a great trope), but I still don't really feel it. Maybe it's that these characters need to stand out a bit more. Right now they feel pretty nonspecific. Even a few random personal details can help. 

-Oh if they smell so bad shouldn't they like take a bath or something beforehand so the guards don't notice them?

-If it's risky I feel like you can't say "it will work" right after. 

pg 12: Not that I know a ton about this but I think "cripple" is considered pretty offensive towards disabled people. I get that this is a historical setting but I'd still recommend using other ways to convey the same thing unless you really know what you're doing. Again I'm not an expert though so maybe you could look into it on your own. I could be wrong. 

 

 

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On 3/16/2021 at 6:24 AM, RedBlue said:

Hello! I’m new to the group so I haven’t seen chapter 1, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on from reading this chapter.

Overall thoughts:

The plot comes across as quite tropey. This might be a matter of personal taste, but I felt like there wasn’t a hook. The plot is moving, but I’m not sold on it yet. What makes this story special?

The characters are a bit two-dimensional. I assume from how he is presented that Au is our protagonist, but he seems very passive here. He tags along while Mr G does all the work. This makes Mr G more interesting than Au in my opinion, which is probably not what you were going for. I also feel like I don’t know anything about Au beyond that he loves his family and is in way over his head. That makes it hard to be invested in Au and his problems.

The Count comes across as moustache-twirly. It’s a bit cartoonish. I think his dialogue is 99% of the problem there. 

Mr G is the character who works best here, for me. He’s competent, resourceful and drives the plot for this chapter. It’s interesting that he is willing to put his life at risk to make sure Au escapes with him. His relationship with D feels more fleshed out than his relationship with Au - I’m not completely sure what Au means to Mr G, beyond the fact that he’s important to him.

This is great, thank you! I keep hearing that the story is quite tropey, subconsciously I get this, but on a conscious level I'm not entirely sure what the tropes I'm using are. Like is it the archaic writing style as a trope? The damsel in distress? The out-of-his-depths boy hero? The creepy vampire manor? I'm just wondering if this is what we mean by tropes or if there's a different sense of it. Because yeah, I'm definitely not doing a great job of being unique haha. I really appreciate that point of 'what makes this story special,' it really struck me and made me think.

The characters are a problem. I think I just haven't fleshed them out enough in my own mind. I was too caught up thinking about cool tropes or action sequences that I overlooked who these characters are.

You should have seen the Count in the first version haha. Yeah, his dialogue could still be more organic.

It's funny that G is the character who works the best, because I don't plan on having him around for long. I'm considering getting rid of him entirely and leaning harder into Au's agency and unique character.

On 3/16/2021 at 6:24 AM, RedBlue said:

I think the dialogue does have some issues. Part of it is that you have some modernisms (eg ‘so-called’ and ‘okay’) slipping through otherwise old-timey language. Part of it is punctuation - you might want to change up some of those commas and full stops. (That problem creeps into some of the prose, too). Another reason it feels off to me is that characters often straight-up state what they feel or want instead of reacting organically. 

This might be another matter of taste, but I also felt there was a problem with tension during this chapter. Au and Mr G move from one bad situation to the next very quickly, with no complications or reversals. We are told that what they’re doing is risky and that Au is scared, but everything they do works as they intend on the first try. By the end of the chapter, it feels like they were never in any real danger of failing. It killed the suspense for me. 

I think I struggle with modern writing when I'm writing something that takes place in a cultural bygone era. I'm trying to fix it, but I feel pretty lost haha. What do you mean by change up some of the commas and full stops?
That's a great point about the tension. Nothing problematic really happens, this definitely is a helpful insight.

On 3/16/2021 at 6:24 AM, RedBlue said:

Small things:

pg 1 - ‘a voice that Au oddly recognised’ and ‘Au became silent’ both awkward phrasing. Maybe ‘fell silent’?

pg 2 - in Count’s dialogue, saying ‘I don’t appreciate...’ and ‘I’m not so ruthless...’ feels stilted for him to state these sentiments directly.

pg 5 - ‘his servant also’ awkward phrasing

pg 5 - ‘opened the door slowly and peaked in’ I think you mean ‘peeked’

pg 8 - ‘down the backside of the hill’ back side is two words or it means butt :)   You could use ‘far side’ instead

pg 8 - you’re missing a “ on some of Mr G’s dialogue 

pg 11 - D’s name sticks out. I know it’s Italian, but the other names are exotic-sounding enough that running into a guy named D seems weird.

pg 14 - ‘spent the last ten years smuggling’ is this something D should be saying to a man he hasn’t seen in 20 years? 

Also, D repeats himself a lot about his retirement. Unless it’s an important plot point, I don’t think it needs to be hammered in quite that much.

I hope that helps!

 

This is definitely all very helpful. Though one thing, I was under the impression that in dialogue, when a speaker begins a new idea (a new paragraph per se) but never actually stopped talking, then there is no need for the initial ". I could be wrong, but I recall reading this rule somewhere. It could also be an older style thing to do. But I'll look into it. Thanks for all your helpful feedback RedBlue.

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On 3/16/2021 at 9:37 AM, kais said:

Overall

Things are moving forward, which is nice. But it still just reads like a trope book, but it's now clear you aren't leaning into them. Hence, I don't have much motivation to keep reading because I know what happens. With that, there is no tension. 

Same issues with stilted dialogue and two-dimensional characters as before. You might try reading your text out loud. How does it sound to your ears? Is that the way you would speak?

For your other question, no, I'm not invested in our MC because he appears to be the lead in a dime store novel. I've not yet had any sense that he is in danger, especially with how this chapter ended with them getting to escape the town with really no effort at all.

Again, I think you'd be best served if you turned this into a silly trope book. Lean into the tropes you're using. Add more. Make it borderline ridiculous so we enjoy it for the tropes, not in spite of them.

Sadly, I tried reading my text out loud and it sounded alright. I think I just talk really messed up hahaha ahh. Apologies if this is really dumb, but what would you characterize as leaning into the tropes more? Adding a dash of humour like sort of breaking the fourth wall? You mentioned making it borderline ridiculous, but how would you see that come across in the narrative? I'm probably asking too much from you, but I respect your opinion a lot and I'm just a bit confused. I've been reading Neil Gaiman's Stardust recently, and I imagine that's the sort of leaning into tropes that you're talking about. But I can't help but want to face the challenge of making this story less of a joke by improving the richness and depth of the characters as you say...

On 3/16/2021 at 9:37 AM, kais said:

As I go:

- This...still reads like you're trying to riff old trope books. The writing is so lean and the characters sort of cardboard cutouts. There's a richness missing to the storytelling that would let this stand on its own. Or you could lean into the trope.

- pg 3: My skin can become as hard as stone <-- wait what now? Out of nowhere

- pg 3: well that was a very easy escape. Very convenient the digging was already done. There's no real tension here because thus far everything has been easy, or trope-silly

- pg 6: being caught by a stone man would be just as bone breaking as falling onto the ground. Possibly moreso, if there is grass

- pg 6: and both men suffered <-- isn't one of them a boy? Because everyone certainly treats him like one, and his voice is juvenile

- pg 8: they're running around outside now but I have no feel for the greater world at all. I think a lot of that richness I mentioned before is just general lack of world building. What does their town look like? Who rules it? Is there magic? Is it like 1800s, or 2045?

- pg 8: He felt trapped and useless. His entire family was at the mercy of Count Cri and there was nothing he could do about it. <-- I'd much rather get this through his actions and impatience than be told about it

- pg 9: I sense any risk at all to my comfortable life, I’ll abandon you <-- this whole dialogue chain just seems plot convenient. The guy helping them is barely two dimensional and speaks like someone, again, mocking a trope

Haha very true observations, both funny and painful to read, thank you. What would your recommendation for injecting worldbuilding be? Descriptions? Interactions? Plain expo? I know I write very lean, it's something that was instilled in me somehow and clearly I need to adapt if I mean to write anything worthwhile. As always, thanks for your feedback.

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On 3/16/2021 at 1:10 PM, C_Vallion said:

Pg 1:

“…can’t very well let you go. But I’m not so ruthless…”  if he let the parents go, why can’t he let A- go?  What’s he planning to do with A- or Mr. G- long term if he isn’t planning to release or kill them?  How long has he had to “think of something better”?

Does the count have any reason for coming down to check on them? It seems like he just comes down to say hi then leave again. 

Yeah, I knew this was a problem when I wrote it and yet I was too lazy and pressed for time to change it. Basically, he let the parents go because he was able to hypnotize them. He wasn't able to hypnotize A or Mr. G. He says he's got to think about it, but it's not actually one of his priorities. I realize it's all very weak and I plan to revise a lot of this nonsense out. I'm thinking of eliminating Mr. G as a character at all so I have a better chance to explore A's psyche. Then changing the escape sequence entirely and not having the Count come down to visit because as you said, it's pointless.

I think a lot of what you pointed out while reading comes from a lack of things making sense/the situations just being convenient for the plot, which I'm grateful to hear. It's clear to me that either I have to make major overhauls to the events that arise or as @kais recommends, amplify the ridiculousness of the story, which by all means, is ridiculous upon reflection.

On 3/16/2021 at 1:10 PM, C_Vallion said:

1.      Do you get a sense that the plot is moving forward? To some extent.  Physically leaving the castle helps. And the immediate goal changing from rescuing M- to escaping to rescue her another day helps.  But A- doesn’t seem to have much active involvement in making those things happen.  He would have stayed at the castle to try to rescue her if he’d had the choice. And he hasn’t really made any active decisions other than trailing along after Mr. G- since then.

2.      Is the dialogue less stilted? Not really. A lot of the text could still use a good deal of reading aloud to catch awkward wording and structure.

3.      Do you at all care about A's plight? While I care that he is trying to get to safety, to come back later to rescue M, the combination of the escape going smoothly and his not being the one to actively push the escape forward makes it harder to be engaged by his role in it.   So while on a basic level, I care about his plight, the fact that he’s just been along for the ride through this chapter doesn’t help.  He wants to get to safety. But what does he think that means? Getting home? Getting somewhere else? Right now he’s just following Mr. G-‘s lead, and we don’t know enough about where Mr. G- is taking them to know where they are headed or how that will ultimately put them in a better place to rescue M-.

1. Clearly A is too much exerted upon/lacking agency early on in this story. In the story, I was going to have him get real agency around Ch 4, but it's clear to me that no one would read to ch 4 unless there is more of a hook early on. This is why I think A should be alone in the Manor and experience a different sort of getaway by more of his own merit.

2. I think that I must speak in a very strange manner because when I read the dialogue aloud, it doesn't sound wrong at all. I think I need to really imagine the interactions to see how stilted it all is.

3. Yes.

Thanks for all your help, Vallion.

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14 hours ago, julienreel said:

I keep hearing that the story is quite tropey, subconsciously I get this, but on a conscious level I'm not entirely sure what the tropes I'm using are. Like is it the archaic writing style as a trope? The damsel in distress? The out-of-his-depths boy hero? The creepy vampire manor? I'm just wondering if this is what we mean by tropes or if there's a different sense of it.

The archaic writing style is not inherently a problem in my opinion, as long as it’s consistent. It’s the out-of-his-depth blank slate boy hero motivated by imperilled family members that feels tropey. The creepy vampire manor, the evil Count and the dungeon escape are also familiar tropes. I’m not saying these elements of the story should be taken out - all stories rely on tropes to some extent - but having some new, fresh idea or spin would make the whole thing more compelling.

 

14 hours ago, julienreel said:

It's funny that G is the character who works the best, because I don't plan on having him around for long. I'm considering getting rid of him entirely and leaning harder into Au's agency and unique character.

I think this is a good idea. Forcing Au to solve his own problems would likely take what worked about G and give it to Au instead. 

 

14 hours ago, julienreel said:

What do you mean by change up some of the commas and full stops?

I think the readability could be improved with some changes to the punctuation in places. For example, the Count’s dialogue on pg2 ‘Oh please, you’re in no position to make demands.’ could be ‘Oh, please. You’re in no position to make demands.’ I won’t pick out every instance, because it’s a style thing more than a technical thing. But improving the punctuation would definitely help the flow.

 

14 hours ago, julienreel said:

I was under the impression that in dialogue, when a speaker begins a new idea (a new paragraph per se) but never actually stopped talking, then there is no need for the initial "

If the speaker continues to the next paragraph uninterrupted, the finished paragraph loses the “ that would close it out. But the next paragraph starts with the initial “. And if the speaker is continuing after a dialogue tag as in pg8, you need all the “.

 

14 hours ago, julienreel said:

Thanks for all your helpful feedback RedBlue.

You’re very welcome :) 

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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, " was imprisoned for so-called propaganda." Polite that he's not dead. Does the Count have a plan for this educated man?

Pg 3, " the common privy." All I can think of is that a jail under a toilet is a really bad design flaw. For one thing, where is all the feces and urine going? They are obviously not swimming and choking in the stuff. Is the Count polite enough to build a jail cell under a toilet and then clean it out every day?

Spoiler

120 Garderobes aka. Medieval Toilets ideas | medieval, medieval life, medieval  castle

My problem is, I guess I'm used to the privies like the illustration above so I'm overthinking.

Pg 3, "My skin can become as hard as stone," How??? Did I forget that magic is more commonplace than I was thought? 

Pg 4, "meant to kill your parents, they would be dead already." I feel like if the Count was going to kill anyone, it would have been A and Mr. G.

Pg 5, "I’ll catch you." And either break A's bones when he lands on a rock-hard person, or break Mr. G's bones when he has a 150 lb-ish guy fall into his arms. 

Pg 6, "They fell from the edge and landed on a patch of heather" My brain was so confused. I was thinking cliff. Like, deadly cliff. Brain goes, "Ahhh -- oh, wait, heather. Huh."

Pg 6, "The Count C" The previous fellow, I would assume? And not this particular Count?

Pg 6, “Let’s hope they think we fell to our death,” Or they'll look down, see a buttload of crushed heather and go, "Ey, I think they survived. I don't see any bodies."

Would heather even be enough to break your fall? 

Pg 8, "Hopefully I’ll stink less with this," Shoulda rolled around in that heather.

Pg 10, “And you’re sure his hands were glowing? You weren’t just dreaming it?” Mr. G turns his skin as hard as a rock to no-one's surprise, but somehow this is unbelievable?

Pg 13, "[Dang] straight," This completely yanked me out of the story as this is so modern compared to the usual more archaic language.

Pg 13, "they reached their destination some hours later" I'm surprised no one smelled Mr. G, and A isn't puking from having to be within close quarters with Mr. G for hours.

 

Do you get the sense that the plot is moving forward with this chapter?

Yes. There isn't great feeling of danger because so far everything has gone to plan. Adding a miniature try/fail cycle to this chapter might help, but I'm not sure. 


Is the dialogue less stilted than it was in my past submissions?

The punctuation is sometimes off, which throws off the rhythm (" But I’m retired now [dang it]." should have a comma between now and dang). I personally don't have much of an issue with the archaic sounding dialogue. It reminds me of R.A. Salvatore sometimes, particularly The Highwayman, for some reason, but I'm not sure why. 


Are you at all invested in Aurelius as a character (his plight etc.)?

What is keeping me interested right now is the Count. I want to see what dastardly deeds he is up to. A is...fine. He's there. Mr. G does all the action, all the thinking. A follows around like a lost dog for the most part. Outside of wanting to save his family, M particularly, I don't get much of a sense for his character. 

 

On 3/17/2021 at 5:54 PM, julienreel said:

on a conscious level I'm not entirely sure what the tropes I'm using are. Like is it the archaic writing style as a trope? The damsel in distress? The out-of-his-depths boy hero? The creepy vampire manor?

Let me introduce you to my favorite friend TV Tropes

You rightly pointed out the Damsel in Distress and Haunted Castle. You could say you have Aristocrats Are Evil with the Count. Mr. G is leaning into the Mentor Archetype and it wouldn't be difficult to push A into The Hero archetype. At least he isn't a Farm Boy

One way to look at tropes is to take a peek at who did them well. Consider Star Wars: A New Hope. If I counted TV Trope's list correctly (please don't make me do that again), this singular movie uses 339 different tropes - and yet is a smashing success. It has its Farm Boy who hears the Call for Adventure to go on The Hero's Journey. He is joined by the Mentor/Old Wizard/Wise Hermit and the Loveable Rogue and his best friend to go rescue the Damsel in Distress. They have to figure out how to destroy the Doomsday Device with the Achilles Heel. Another great example is The Princess Bridea classic.

Who uses tropes well if they are a new reader, and terribly if one is well-versed? May I offer up Eragon? (finally, a book example!)

Who turns tropes on their head well? One of my favorite examples is from Ever After, where Prince Henry is supposed to save Danielle, the Damsel in Distress...but she doesn't follow everyone's expectations

It's also worth looking to see who did something similar to your story, and see how you can do it differently/better. "I slowly chipped away at the wall every day for the last week." For instance, this line immediately reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo, where young Dantes and the educated old man dig themselves out of the prison (although in their case, they used spoons, if I remember right). However, for The Count of Monte Cristo, it takes Dantes fourteen years to escape, and the original escape plan that he works on for years doesn't even work. The book is from the 1844's and while it is horribly boring and slow for the most part, the prison scenes (Sparknotes says Chapters 10-12?) might be worth looking into. 

If you know exactly what audience/genre you are going for, it will help you lean into/avoid/twist the most common tropes. Here is TV Trope's list of common Horror Tropes. Whether you mean to or not, right now your work reminds me of Gothic Horror.  

 

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On 3/17/2021 at 8:40 AM, Mandamon said:

Similar thoughts to the others here. I'm not sure the archaic sort of voice works, because as the others point out, it makes the book very tropey, like it was written in the 70's or something. In a purely meta, authorial reaction, I think @kais idea to really lean in to the tropes would make this funny and enjoyable. Simply how the publishing market is now, something like this doesn't have a lot of hook for modern readers because it's in the style of stories 20-30 years ago. However, it it's making fun of that style, then people will engage with it.

In any case, either something like the above, or reading this out loud to yourself and trying to make it less stilted would help.

To your questions, the plot is moving along, but it's very standard fare. The only modern thing is how the power are presented, and I think that's why they seem to come out of nowhere. They're a more modern angle to the book, but don't really seem in place here.

I'm definitely more invested in what little we've seen of M, rather than A. A is not really in any danger. M is the one who's being carted off somewhere. I'm wondering how she's actively resisting the count's power.

These are some great points, thank you. I do think M would do a lot more for this story than A at this point. As for leaning into the tropes... I see the wisdom in that advice. I really do. But it also feels like a cop-out in a sense. Since I obviously have an issue with writing serious prose involving serious characters, I would rather try to remedy that issue. I'm torn haha.

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On 3/17/2021 at 6:45 PM, Silk said:

1. Do you get the sense that the plot is moving forward with this chapter?

Definitely moving forward, but in many places – most, honestly – the events felt too easy. It didn’t seem like the characters encountered any real opposition, any place where I at least really believed there was a possibility they might not make it, until they got to the city and D didn’t want to help them.

2. Is the dialogue less stilted than it was in my past submissions?

It felt about the same, I think – improvement towards the end with Mr G and D snipping at each other – and the narrative tone is still pretty archaic in many places.

3. Are you at all invested in Aurelius as a character (his plight etc.)?

A little more than in previous installments, but not as much as I need to be. He isn’t a particularly emotive character (partially coming back to that old-fashioned, somewhat detached narrative voice – I called out one or two specific lines below as an example).

I’ve just gone and skimmed through some of the other comments, and I agree with those who’ve mentioned that if you’re going to draw that heavily on tropes you should be subverting them in some way. Humour is definitely one way of doing that and I think the archaic narrative voice that seems to come naturally to you could lend itself very well to that. It would also be an obvious way of modernizing the book because I could definitely see it being a barrier to marketability if it's not there for a reason.

1. Yes. Definitely too easy. You make a good point. I love suspense and writing suspense, but I've done it an injustice with this chapter.

2. Is my writing archaic because of the word choices? The sentence structure? The detached narrative? A combination of all the above? I think I've read too many books from the 80s and before haha.

3. I think this problem partly comes from being an inexperienced writer along with too many stronger characters that overshadow A. I think I need to force A to fend for himself earlier on because otherwise, readers would lose interest before he gains agency.

On 3/17/2021 at 6:45 PM, Silk said:

As I read:

Right off the bat, I think the appearance of Mr. G is going to need more foreshadowing than it’s been given; I know it was mentioned that he disappeared, but this still seems abrupt (and A still seems to be taking things way more in stride than I was expecting). In the previous chapter, rather than just mentioning the fact that the teacher disappeared, I think mentioning that he was outspoken against the count and that people who are outspoken against the count have a tendency to disappears, possibly in different parts of the manuscript, would do more to make the teacher’s appearance here feel earned.

“A looked up… anger in his eyes” reads like third-person omniscient

It’s a little less overt in this draft, which helps, but the introduction of supernatural abilities being apparently relatively common seems a bit abrupt here. I think a little more setup regarding how common these types of abilities are and how they’re understood in the world before this point would go a long way.

I'm thinking that the reason I had Mr. G as a character at all is insufficient. If his only role is to make A's life easier, well that's not very interesting. I believe he has no place in my story after all.

Yeah, I definitely need to set-up the supernatural aspects better. I'm not even sure the supernatural elements I had planned for this story suit my narrative.

On 3/17/2021 at 6:45 PM, Silk said:

The count seems generally more reasonable in this draft, but sticking them under the privy is still kinda cartoony. It COULD work as a kind of character-building still, I think, suggesting the count is kind of a coward who’s only outright cruel when he’s absolutely sure he can get away with it (not entirely bought into this idea yet, but could see it working) so depends on whether that’s the kind of characterization you want to go for.

“Then you go and I’ll catch you.” This might go SOME way towards breaking A’s fall, but if he’s high enough that the fall is dangerous, then he’s high enough up that the fall is dangerous even if someone else catches him.

I would like to see A be a little more active when encountering M – that’s been his goal the whole time, after all! - even if it still results in him falling form the window.

Could be WRS, sorry, but has the count actually been revealed to be a demon in this draft? If not, Mr. G’s comment at the bottom of p6, “the Count C I knew,” may be a holdover from the previous version.

Yeah, I'm realizing that the privy dungeon is a bit too absurd for this story.

Again, catching someone from the second story is something I didn't put enough thought into haha.

I had this realization late into the draft, that A would be way more emotive and reactionary when seeing M, but I took the easy way out and just had him stumble from the window and be dragged away.

The count was not revealed as a demon in this draft, but he still is something like that. I suppose it gets a bit confusing when I don't reveal what he is exactly to the readers.

On 3/17/2021 at 6:45 PM, Silk said:

“...and then receded into the distance.” I wanted a little more tension at some point during this chase/escape scene, and this seems like one missed opportunity to amp it up. Do Mr. G and A leave a trackable trail? Is there really only one way for them to go? What can happen that brings their pursuers a lot closer to catching them then they seem to get here? Right now, the outcome of the scene does not really seem to be in doubt.

“...was the city of V.” Is this the city where A lives? The way it’s introduced makes it sound like that’s not the case, but they can’t have gone far enough that there are many cities waiting conveniently at the bottom of picturesque hills.

Entrance into the city: No gates or guards? Nobody looking suspiciously as at the battered guy covered sewer as they make their way in? The city seems suspiciously empty.

“Hopefully I’ll stink less with this” … wouldn’t he stink about the same, just while also wearing a blanket?

Definitely need more try/fails in this chapter. You're right about that scene being a missed opportunity for it.

Well the city of V is where the Count's manor is. A and his family travelled there from their hometown. The manor is on the edge of town, on a hill, but still within the confines of the city gate.

Funny, yeah he would definitely stink the same.

On 3/17/2021 at 6:45 PM, Silk said:

I am delighted that D seems to want nothing to do with G and A because it’s the first real obstacle they’ve had this chapter.

“… I don’t believe this is the Count C I once knew.” Ah, there is the clarifying remark on p10. Maybe hang a lantern on Mr. G’s earlier comment, then, since I think that does make that the first time in the revised version that this idea comes up.

“It’s been twenty years since I last saw him.” This… didn’t seem to be the case from the way D greeted them? And I’d like a much stronger sense of desperation if that’s the case. This comment is the first indication I’ve had that this is a desperate move, but “it’s been 20 years I’m sure everything’s fine though” is definitely desperate.

“...possibly expect to get through the gate.” Second time the gate is mentioned now that they’re in V but there was zero mention of them having to get through a gate to begin with.

“Don’t go flapping your lips” okay D and G both trust each other way too easily

But other than the occasional moments of “But WHHHY are you even trusting each other” I think the conversation between D/G is the strongest part of the chapter.

So… that cart’s gonna smell like sewage now, yes? Since they never bothered/were never given the opportunity to clean up?

Yeah, you're right that D and G trust each other too much. If G is desperate enough for it, alright, but D shouldn't trust him that much and I just brushed over that oops.

Haha, yeah I didn't think of the cart reeking, but you're absolutely right. Thanks for all your helpful comments @Silk!

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On 3/18/2021 at 11:28 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

Overall:

I don't really know about horror tropes so I can't comment that much in that regard. For me the main thing was that there wasn't anything to draw me into specific aspects or details of the story that I could see. Which I'm sure is really frustrating feedback to get, since I don't have an easy fix in mind and it's hard to point to specific examples. My recommendation is to see if you can scatter specific details about the characters especially without making the chapter much longer. Qualities that feel like it fits their character that no other character in this story would have. Right now it's hard for me to picture the story because my mind doesn't have much to latch onto. Though at the same time I don't want paragraphs of description. 

The plot is quite solid. I think this is the strongest part of the chapter. The basic series of events made a lot of sense and kept me engaged. 

I do think some aspects of the dialogue are better! For me it was strongest when G was talking with D, because that felt like a conversation that could only happen between those two characters and helped me get a feel for their dynamic. When G's explaining plot stuff to A I think there's some more room to add personality into it. 

As for A... to be blunt, not really. G is the most interesting character to me. He has secrets, agency, and strong motivations honed by his past and not something that happened last night (which therefore makes him seem consistent and strong). A has none of those qualities. If I replace A with most teen boy protags I don't think a ton changes in the story, which is generally a sign his character needs more work. 

 

Thanks, Ace! I think any perspective is helpful, so even just saying that nothing specific draws you in is good! It means that I need more depth and unique elements to this story (I think haha.) Scattering specific details I think is a great idea. My partner said something similar. She said that when she thinks of the depth of character, she thinks of things like mentioning random little past experiences or interests.

I think the problem with my characters largely arises from not properly fleshing them out in my notes or in my head. Like I couldn't tell you about A's upbringing or his personal issues or his dislikes.

I appreciate hearing that the plot worked for you/was engaging. I know that it could also use a major overhaul, but it's nice to hear something positive haha.

I think G being much more interesting than A is a problem. I think it's too early for him to be with A if A is the MC. 

I'm going to brush over the as you read part of your reply. I agree with what you've said, and a lot of your comments are very helpful. Getting the characters to feel more real is the challenge, and dropping small details about them is a good tip, thank you. And thanks for pointing out the potential issue with using the word 'cripple.' I hadn't thought of its potential offense to the reader, and was using it largely because of the rough, loveless nature of D and the story itself.

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6 hours ago, julienreel said:

I think the problem with my characters largely arises from not properly fleshing them out in my notes or in my head. Like I couldn't tell you about A's upbringing or his personal issues or his dislikes.

This is a good point to make, and it reminds me of what some other writers have told me about how it needs to be clear that the character has a life outside the story, even if you don't see much of that life. I think some writers will plan out stuff like this and others will try to have it come out naturally, so you'll have to find what works for you. My personal strategy is somewhere in the middle: I start with a few defining character traits and try to have that bleed naturally into everything else they do. You'll most likely just have to play around and see what works for you. :) 

6 hours ago, julienreel said:

I think G being much more interesting than A is a problem. I think it's too early for him to be with A if A is the MC. 

It does make sense for A to encounter his mentor figure early on, but I think the mentor needs to bring out something in the hero for it to work. Right now it feels more like this is G's story with A sorta tagging along rather than G guiding A along, if that makes any sense. This is one of the tradeoffs with not having A be a special chosen one like in draft 1; it's harder for us to feel like the story's about him. Still, I think this is a necessary point in between writing A as being the protag because he's pure and having him be important for a more engaging reason. I think the story just needs to find what that reason is. 

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On 3/19/2021 at 5:14 PM, Snakenaps said:

Do you get the sense that the plot is moving forward with this chapter?

Yes. There isn't great feeling of danger because so far everything has gone to plan. Adding a miniature try/fail cycle to this chapter might help, but I'm not sure. 


Is the dialogue less stilted than it was in my past submissions?

The punctuation is sometimes off, which throws off the rhythm (" But I’m retired now [dang it]." should have a comma between now and dang). I personally don't have much of an issue with the archaic sounding dialogue. It reminds me of R.A. Salvatore sometimes, particularly The Highwayman, for some reason, but I'm not sure why. 


Are you at all invested in Aurelius as a character (his plight etc.)?

What is keeping me interested right now is the Count. I want to see what dastardly deeds he is up to. A is...fine. He's there. Mr. G does all the action, all the thinking. A follows around like a lost dog for the most part. Outside of wanting to save his family, M particularly, I don't get much of a sense for his character. 

Yes, what you're saying mirrors a lot of what other people are saying and makes me realize that this chapter is way too convenient and even silly. I better understand now what y'all mean by too tropey. I've decided to majorly change things up.

On 3/19/2021 at 5:14 PM, Snakenaps said:

Let me introduce you to my favorite friend TV Tropes

You rightly pointed out the Damsel in Distress and Haunted Castle. You could say you have Aristocrats Are Evil with the Count. Mr. G is leaning into the Mentor Archetype and it wouldn't be difficult to push A into The Hero archetype. At least he isn't a Farm Boy

 

This is so incredibly helpful, thank you! Reading the gothic horror trope page wowed me at how automatically I'm using those tropes haha. This has given me a way too avoid common pitfalls and better utilize the tropes of the genre. Honestly, thanks so much.

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2 hours ago, julienreel said:

This is so incredibly helpful, thank you! Reading the gothic horror trope page wowed me at how automatically I'm using those tropes haha. This has given me a way too avoid common pitfalls and better utilize the tropes of the genre. Honestly, thanks so much.

My pleasure!

Also, I recently started reading Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass. He uses pretty archaic language in this, but it flows really nicely. I thought of you when reading it. Might be interesting for you to take a look at. I got it on Libby for free. 

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16 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

Also, I recently started reading Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass. He uses pretty archaic language in this, but it flows really nicely. I thought of you when reading it. Might be interesting for you to take a look at. I got it on Libby for free. 

Sick! I'll check it out

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On 3/19/2021 at 2:18 PM, julienreel said:

2. Is my writing archaic because of the word choices? The sentence structure? The detached narrative? A combination of all the above? I think I've read too many books from the 80s and before haha.

I think all of the above to a certain extent, but especially two and three. The detached narrative is definitely reminiscent of older stories (when you submitted the very first chapter I honestly felt like I was reading a Henry James novel!) and that combines with, in particular, the noticeably formal way the characters tend to speak to one another.

On 3/19/2021 at 1:30 PM, julienreel said:

But it also feels like a cop-out in a sense. Since I obviously have an issue with writing serious prose involving serious characters, I would rather try to remedy that issue.

Not necessarily! There's nothing wrong with leaning into the areas where you've already got some strengths. And it's definitely good to try and shore up areas where you know you aren't as strong, of course, but you're not obligated to do that with this story if you think the "lean into the tropes" advice will work better for your project.

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