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julienreel

3/22/2021 - julienreel - Legend of the Four-fold Kingdom: Ch 2 Rev 1 (L)(V)(G) - 3069 words

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Hey everyone, this is my revision of the second chapter. I'm hoping it's an improvement from the last version. So there are some inconsistencies in this chapter with the current ch 1. I'm going to revise the first chapter to make up for these inconsistencies. Mr. G is gone. The privy dungeon is gone. And the geography of the Manor is slightly altered.

All feedback welcome :)

 
Questions for this chapter:
 
1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
3. How's the dialogue? 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?
 
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1. There is and there isn't. I feel like there's less tension because most of the chapter is A just stuck in his cell, not doing anything, where the last chapter had a daring escape.
2. I still don't get much sense from A. He's the MC, in that the story is focused on him, and I guess is competent enough to stab a (trained?) guard to death and escape an execution squad. We don't get a lot of sense of him, though because there's not the mechanic there was before of talking with G.
3. The dialog is somewhat better here, but I think that's more because there isn't as much talking.
4. Honestly, not sure. I think I actually prefer the last chapter more because it started to expand the world (with G and the grumpy smuggler, and seeing the city), whereas this chapter narrows it just to A and dealing with the cell. Maybe some combination of the two?

 

Notes while reading:

pg 2: "The guard..."
--every sentence in this paragraph stars with the same words. There's something to be said for repetition, but in this case, I think it actually makes this sequence harder to read.

pg 2: "The luke-warm liquid splashed over his head and the bowl struck his hand and clattered to the floor."
--descriptions like this also slow the story down. You already told us the guard tossed the soup on him. Readers can imagine the outcome (sometimes better than writers can write them!)

pg 2: "But of course, it was so dark in his cell..." "turned it around..." "It was too dark in the cell..."
--All the sentences above are similar the my comment above, and this what may be catching some people as "archaic." You explain small actions in great detail, where you could probably take all these sentences out and leave the little details to the reader's imagination.

pg 7: So...the count keeps him locked up for weeks, yet spends the resources to feed him, then asks once if he will obey, and when he refuses, tries to execute him? I would think he would at least ask more than once.

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This is so much improved from last time, so good job on that front!

The tension is much better. It does feel like Au is in actual danger, and the fact that he has to struggle against his situation makes it more compelling. 

Au’s characterisation is showing through now. He feels like a fairly standard dark-ish fantasy boy hero type, but he does read like a character with a personality, agency, and internal thoughts and feelings. It helps that he starts the chapter with suffering. Suffering is good :)   The wallowing he does on page 1, and then getting to see him actively fighting against it, works. On page 4, having other things he would be doing if he weren’t trapped was a nice touch. 

The dialogue is fine, in my opinion. It’s not naturalistic, but it’s the kind of stylised where it sounds intentional rather than stilted. Other people’s mileage may vary on that, though. 

I have a few logic nitpicks I’ll get into below, but my biggest single issue with the plot in this chapter was that Au manages to escape from a bunch of guards by literally just running away. Those guards have one job. Heavy armour shouldn’t slow them down THAT much over a short distance. (Otherwise, not all of them would wear it.) It just seems like a plan that shouldn’t be able to work, on the face of it. 

As I go:

pg1 - ‘watery bowls of ... cup of water’ two waters in one sentence. Maybe use a synonym for ‘watery’?

pg2 - Au’s antagonising of the jailer comes off a bit silly. It’s obvious that he’ll get himself hurt. Is the moment of defiance worth the pain and potential injury? It’s good to have his behaviour change over the course of the chapter, but his attitude here could be toned down and it would make more sense. 

The jailer is the most tropey part of the revised chapter. He needs to make Au suffer, which he’s doing, but the way he goes about it and his attitude are textbook ‘sadistic prison guard’ stuff. If you can think of a more original or surprising way for this character to be a monster, it would make his sections more interesting. 

pg3 - ‘much dirtier than he would have expected’ - it might help if I had some reference for how dirty that is. And initially, I assumed the dirt was soil. Going over it again, that doesn’t make sense. Is the dirt supposed to be worn away stone? I don’t think stone works like that?

pg4 - setting question: is it normal for the Count to keep prisoners for extended periods of time? What for? Is the Count’s dungeon part of normal law enforcement in the area? Ignore me if this was explained in chapter 1, but explaining exactly what this place is could help flesh out the setting. 

pg5 - Au says ‘hello, Jailer’. Does he call the guy ‘Jailer’? After being there for several weeks?

pg6 - Does Au connect the blue light magic thing to the spell that the Count cast on the parents? Should he? Also, the way it is described makes it sound like Au resists quite easily. Is this because Au is special, or did the parents submit willingly? If this is a mystery to be revealed later then don’t worry about it, but if these are not questions I’m supposed to have, that scene needs to be clarified. 

pg8 - If the guards bind Au’s ankles, do they plan to carry him? How is he walking?

pg10 - ‘Au span violently’ span => spun

pg10/11 - are Au’s hands still bound for all of this? Also, I don’t think you can cut through hempen rope with a sharpened spoon that quickly or easily. 

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Overall

This is loads better than the last version, for sure. The gothic tone has dropped away as well and it's coming across as more standard European fantasy fare, but still relying almost entirely on tropes. The spoon part was good but we need still more uniqueness to really get this narrative moving, and we still need a global arc as well (see below).

1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
There is more, but still not enough to drive the chapter. I need global stakes still.
 
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
I do, but only in that he seems to be a stock character from a stock European fantasy book
 
3. How's the dialogue? 
Better! We have lost the gothic feel. It's still stilted and cliched in places, but better!
 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?
YES. And nicely done on that. Revision is not easy. I don't care for how much time he spends in his cell, but at least I get a feel for his desperation now.

 

As I go

- your first sentence is not a great hook. I'd suggest opening each chapter with a strong, catchy sentence to make the reader want to keep reading

- I laughed at the training in the cell. We've moved from gothic atmosphere to a Rocky movie!

- pg 2: lot of redundancy on the word 'pain' in this page

- I will say that this time around, I have a much better sense of how long he has been imprisoned

- pg 2: The hatred he felt towards the guard and the Count inspired him to live on and struggle against hopelessness. He would find a way out, he would find his family, and he would have his justice. <-- this is very shallow motivation, and very tropey. It reads like a comic book for very young children. I want my protagonist to be more complex than this, and he needs more motivation than just blanket revenge to drive the narrative. 

In books, there are generally two arcs going on at any given time- the global arc, and the personal arc. The global arc is the narrative, the main story that needs to be resolved. The personal arc is the arc of each character, which can be purely emotional, action, or otherwise. Right now we have a personal arc but no global arc, which makes the story seem small and incomplete

- pg 3: Could it be that someone used a spoon to slowly scrape away the stone <-- if the stone was soft enough to be scraped with a spoon, it should have also just crumbled by being punched. This prison sounds very easy to escape from

- pg 4: timing wise, this is a lot better.

- pg 6: why did the count keep him there for that length of time if he never thought the kid would bow to his will????

- pg 6: He would hone that spoon into as sharp of a blade as he possibly could. <-- ah, okay. This plot point makes sense now. I rescind my earlier grumblings

- pg 7: was innocent of any crime, <-- why would this matter? The count is clearly evil so why would the kid think he would care about the law

- pg 8: Saint Gabriel <-- so this isn't other world fantasy, it's Western European post-Christianity fantasy?

- pg 8: span violently <-- assuming you mean 'spun' here

- his escape didn't have any really particularly clever elements to it. I'd have liked to have seen a bit more plot involved before he got away

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1       There’s a much better sense of actual danger through the potential execution and the escape, but the ability to just run away is surprising.  Weren’t there walls and gates?  Did all of the guards show up weighed down by full battle armor for the execution of a malnourished seventeen year old? It seems like it would take more cleverness for him to get away.

2       I like that he’s far more active this time around. Even when he’s stuck in the cell, he’s trying to keep up his strength, and actively pursues something that might give him a chance to escape once he sees it.  I still don’t have much of a sense of his personality, but his struggle to escape is far more engaging this time around.

3       Definitely a lot better (really, all of the language is a lot less wordy and stilted). Though some of that might be a general impression because there isn’t as much of it breaking up the rest of the text.  There is still spots that need work, but this is far better than previous chapters in that regard.

4       Yes! Focusing in on A- having to make his own decisions and figure things out on his own does a much better job of making him an engaging character.  There’s no one for him to just blindly go along with, and we see more of his capabilities in place of someone else’s.   

Well done on the changes!

Pg 1:

Still seeing verb tense errors in cases like “he had kept track of the days” instead of “he kept track of the days.”  The latter implies he’s doing it in line with the current timeline of the story.  But when it’s talking about “in the beginning” you need the past perfect tense. Any time the character is thinking back to something that had happened before the current scene is taking place.

“He had lost track after a week”, “hope of freedom had become”, “series of events that had led him there.”

If he has been there long enough to know that the guard is going to start beating him, it seems odd that he would antagonize him.  If it was the first day or two, and he hadn’t figure out how cruel the guard was going to be, mouthing off makes sense.  But I would have expected him to learn better after weeks.

Pg 2:

Adding on to the previous point, being motivated by hatred is one thing (seems like there’s a lot of hatred to be motivated by), but knowing when to lay low to avoid beatings or having his food dumped on the floor doesn’t contradict that.

Pg 3:

Ordinary stone. Stone.” Is there some realization being made here?  The repetition seems odd.

The giant paragraph on page 3 could be split up to add some emphasis to certain lines.  As it is now, it’s a rather intimidating block of text.

So now he’s trying to get along with the jailer. Why not during the first weeks?

Pg 5:

Seems like he resists what the count is doing pretty easily.  

“A- felt foolish for ever believing the count, even for a second.” When did he believe him?  At the original dinner?  It didn’t seem like he trusted the offer to escape, since he acknowledged that he was just playing along.    

Also, when used as “the count” instead of the full “Count C-“, count should be lowercase.

Is the count not going to give any sort of “if you don’t actually bend to my will, I’m going to kill you” ultimatum? Seems odd that he’d bother to hold him that long then just say “meh. He seems stubborn. Kill him.”  What was his alternative plan? Was it so important to have spent weeks keeping A- alive?  If so, I’d expect him to push the matter more.

Pg 7:

Five guards seems like a lot to send for one person who’s been underfed for weeks.  How many guards does the count have? And what are they doing all day every other day? Seems like a pretty boring job. Hope they’re getting paid well. [note after reading on: especially if they are also all turning blind eyes to abductions and child-murder]

Oh. An axe and executioner and everything.  Why not just cut his throat in the cell and be done with it? It does make for a very clear, terrifying picture for A-.  I do think that is good.  But the part of me that likes to poke at little details isn’t convinced that it’s worth the count’s time or effort to set up this formal execution. What’s the benefit to the count to paint this terrifying scene for A? Especially if he’s not even going to be there.   

I generally assume that formal executions are going to be a sort of power play for the one doing the executing.  To make a public display of the death in an attempt to prevent other people from doing the same thing.  Or to show a rebel group that their rebel leader is no more.  It makes for a solid threatening image for A-, but from the count’s perspective, why bother making a big show of it?  And where did he find six guards who are fine with formally murdering a child? Does he have some hold over them? Or are they just normal guys with lives and families who happen to get paid a ton of money to overlook the horrors they see at work?

Pg 8:

“Saint Gab-“ I know you had mentioned before that this isn’t exactly Christianity, but at the moment, I can’t tell the difference between this and some form of Roman Catholicism.  Even if the name Gab- is more strongly associated with Archangel Gab- in Christianity,  there’s no way at this point for me to know that he isn’t praying to an actually-existing catholic saint.  Which would make me assume that this is some sort of version of our world, or an alternate history, and not something entirely different.  It might be helpful to make some minor adjustments to make sure this first hint at A’s religious beliefs falls squarely into one setting or the other, to avoid confusing people later.  I can chat about the religious aspect of world building all day long, so feel free to send a message if you want any other thoughts or feedback on that front.

Why do the jailer and guards think he’s a criminal?  Were none of them there when his family was invited for dinner?

“murmured a prayer he remembered from his lessons” Is he praying this out loud? To put on a show while he’s cutting the ropes?  The murmuring suggests not, but the “remembered from his lessons” implies that he’s not all that devout.  At which point, why is he going through the prayer anyway? Also, the prayer does not help my understanding of the setting. The terminology is too close to Christian prayers for me to see it as anything else, though the theology issues of praying to a saint (or archangel, with the Gab- reference) for redemption from sins immediately makes me cringe.  I think you’d said he was the Jesus-figure in the world’s religion.  But for him to go by the title of Saint creates a lot of issues if there are additional saints. Unless all of the saints can grant redemption. 
Ultimately, I can see any Catholic readers getting really antsy about some of this unless there are clearer lines drawn between this and Roman Catholicism.   And a lot of confusion for people who are going to label it as Catholicism then find out it’s something different. 

Pg 9:

“Primordial fear fueled him…He jogged up the mountain…” jogged?  I know he’s tired at this point, but jogging, to me, implies intentionally slowing his pace.

A few questions about the layout of our escape. Are they already partway up the mountain?  Seems like if he’s near the bottom, it wouldn’t be steep enough to scramble on hands and knees and be kicking rocks loose for quite a while.  Is there no tree cover where he currently is?  Where exactly is he fleeing to if there’s no cover? If they’re shooting arrows at him, I assume they can see him clearly enough to aim, in which case it seems odd that he could have lost them.

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Posted (edited)

I want to first note that your pacing in this one is strides better. I didn’t comment on your last chapter but I did read it and my main issue with it was pacing. Just like the very first chapter you sent, I felt like things kept happening one after another without any time for us to take it in let alone for the characters to take it in. I think that ties in with the lack of emotion from A, adding more emotion and spending more time in his head helped with the pacing. We needed more reactive scenes vs active I felt like. And you've done that here so, good job! :)

1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
Yes, more tension for sure, especially near the end with the axe coming down on him while he tried to escape.
 
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
Kind of. He is def an unlikeable character imo; he feels like a wild, cocky teenager when faced with the jailer. I don't know what to latch onto with him. Is he smart? Is he strong? is he cunning? is he sensitive? is he witty? what am i suppose to like about him? I'm just not crazy about him and I dont care if he dies yet. That sounds harsh, and I don't mean it to be, but I just think he could use a little more work if he is our main POV.
 
3. How's the dialogue? 
Better! Some cliches with the jailer, but overall it is better.
 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?
Yes! I think this is better paced, has better tension, has better characterization (though still not enough), but less world building and less global stakes (like @kais said) It does feel very small. Also, the way it ended... idk if I would read on if I picked this up at a bookstore. I'd probably put it down. there's not a whole lot pulling me forward.

as i go:

Pg 1

-“He had a bed in the cell” this is telling. I think you can do better than this sentence; something like “He rolled onto his side and stared at the bed across his cell.” that isnt perfect, but the point is we’ve condensed the two sentences you have and showed the reader that A has a bed but is choosing to lay on the floor. And i feel like that’s a good indication that he is feeling low. We can assume he isn’t feeling great if he is on the floor when there’s a bed that is most likely more comfortable than the stone floor.

Pg 2

-”the hatred he felt inspired him to live on… he would have justice” I agree with @kais in that im not crazy about his motivation. Tropes aside, this feels a bit strong coming from the version of A I read in the previous versions of chapter 1 and 2. Is A a particularly angry person? Is this realistic for him or is it just something that's convenient for plot? I would of course be upset if I were in A’s position, but i'm not sure I would react this way. And that's fine, some people are more strong willed than others, but this just feels 2 dimensional and cheap.

-“He wondered how he hadnt seen it before” would this be better as something like: “How did he not notice this before?” ?  “he wondered” is a filter, it distances the reader.

Pg 3

-“Could it be that someone used a spoon?” why am I reading this in an eccentric overly-comical british accent

-“A smile stretched across his face and he laughed” he is coming off as very delusional, idk if that was the intention or not.

-“When the jailer was sleeping” there’s only one jailer? Not multiple to cover breaks? I feel like the count would be smarter than this.

-“The weeks rolled by” weeks? Seems rather long. Why is the count keeping him? I feel like it might be cheaper for the count to kill him.

Pg 4

-“Hello, jailer” im trying to imagine that im in prison, would i say “hello, prison guard”? eh, probably not.

Pg 5

-I dont really like A, he seems too feral. I dont empathize with him.

Pg 7

-“Five guards” wait where were all these guards when the jailer was sleeping?? they could've covered his break or something

-I think this is way better than before, but it feels like a chapter in the middle of the book rather than chapter 2 where we don’t really know A or care too much about him yet.

-“Innocent of any crime” his crime was seeing the count steal his sister and mind control his parents, thats enough of a reason for the count to kill him. heck, he should’ve done it sooner imo.

Pg 8

-“Can i pray before— What speak up?” I actually thought this was funny lol

-“Though they thought he was a criminal” do they tho? Don’t they work for the count? Don’t they know the count is the “evil” one?

Edited by karamel
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On 3/23/2021 at 6:12 AM, Mandamon said:

1. There is and there isn't. I feel like there's less tension because most of the chapter is A just stuck in his cell, not doing anything, where the last chapter had a daring escape.

Yeah, I was hoping to make the situation less convenient for A, rather than just oh his tutor is also a prisoner and he already devised an escape for them both. But this raises a very valid point; that he's not doing anything. I was hoping that this time could explore A's plight and raise the tension with his idea of escaping via tunnelling. It's clear from other comments that it would be good to add elements of global stakes to this time and cut down on unnecessary lines.

On 3/23/2021 at 6:12 AM, Mandamon said:

2. I still don't get much sense from A. He's the MC, in that the story is focused on him, and I guess is competent enough to stab a (trained?) guard to death and escape an execution squad. We don't get a lot of sense of him, though because there's not the mechanic there was before of talking with G.

I was hoping that by taking out Mr. G, we could see more agency from A. But if it eliminates the mechanic of seeing him in contrast to another character, then I have to re-think how A can have agency while also be contrasted in conversation. I've been thinking that perhaps the guard that acts as the jailer can be more sympathetic to A and offer some back and forth with him. I should mention that A doesn't stab the guard to death, he catches him by surprise and though the guard almost certainly would die, I don't think it's too absurd that A should be able to catch him off guard (lol puns.) What do you think of that? Do you think the guard would be sharp enough to defend himself?

On 3/23/2021 at 6:12 AM, Mandamon said:

4. Honestly, not sure. I think I actually prefer the last chapter more because it started to expand the world (with G and the grumpy smuggler, and seeing the city), whereas this chapter narrows it just to A and dealing with the cell. Maybe some combination of the two?

Yeah, I think like Kais said, having global stakes and more worldbuilding would help complete this chapter and increase interest from the reader. The combination is a good idea, thanks!

On 3/23/2021 at 6:12 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 2: "The guard..."
--every sentence in this paragraph stars with the same words. There's something to be said for repetition, but in this case, I think it actually makes this sequence harder to read.

pg 2: "The luke-warm liquid splashed over his head and the bowl struck his hand and clattered to the floor."
--descriptions like this also slow the story down. You already told us the guard tossed the soup on him. Readers can imagine the outcome (sometimes better than writers can write them!)

pg 2: "But of course, it was so dark in his cell..." "turned it around..." "It was too dark in the cell..."
--All the sentences above are similar the my comment above, and this what may be catching some people as "archaic." You explain small actions in great detail, where you could probably take all these sentences out and leave the little details to the reader's imagination.

Definitely, thanks for the tips. Leaving more to the reader's imagination is great. I hadn't thought of the detail being responsible for the sense of archaic text, but it makes sense.

On 3/23/2021 at 6:12 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 7: So...the count keeps him locked up for weeks, yet spends the resources to feed him, then asks once if he will obey, and when he refuses, tries to execute him? I would think he would at least ask more than once.

22 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 6: why did the count keep him there for that length of time if he never thought the kid would bow to his will????

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Is the count not going to give any sort of “if you don’t actually bend to my will, I’m going to kill you” ultimatum? Seems odd that he’d bother to hold him that long then just say “meh. He seems stubborn. Kill him.”  What was his alternative plan? Was it so important to have spent weeks keeping A- alive?  If so, I’d expect him to push the matter more.

1 hour ago, karamel said:

-“The weeks rolled by” weeks? Seems rather long. Why is the count keeping him? I feel like it might be cheaper for the count to kill him.

The reason why the count kept him there so long without doing anything is because the count was away with Maria and just got back. He basically just left instructions to wait for him to return and when he returns he attempts to find an alternate method of dealing with A that didn't involve killing him. I think it will be more clear when I revise the first chapter that shows Maria being sent off to be groomed as a priestess. But even if this is the case, it still doesn't make enough sense probably.

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On 3/23/2021 at 7:06 AM, RedBlue said:

This is so much improved from last time, so good job on that front!

The tension is much better. It does feel like Au is in actual danger, and the fact that he has to struggle against his situation makes it more compelling. 

Au’s characterisation is showing through now. He feels like a fairly standard dark-ish fantasy boy hero type, but he does read like a character with a personality, agency, and internal thoughts and feelings. It helps that he starts the chapter with suffering. Suffering is good :)   The wallowing he does on page 1, and then getting to see him actively fighting against it, works. On page 4, having other things he would be doing if he weren’t trapped was a nice touch. 

The dialogue is fine, in my opinion. It’s not naturalistic, but it’s the kind of stylised where it sounds intentional rather than stilted. Other people’s mileage may vary on that, though. 

I have a few logic nitpicks I’ll get into below, but my biggest single issue with the plot in this chapter was that Au manages to escape from a bunch of guards by literally just running away. Those guards have one job. Heavy armour shouldn’t slow them down THAT much over a short distance. (Otherwise, not all of them would wear it.) It just seems like a plan that shouldn’t be able to work, on the face of it. 

Thanks, RedBlue, I appreciate it. Yeah, you raise an excellent point about A escaping by just running away. Other people have commented on that too, it's not very clever or realistic. I'll need to think of something better than that.

 

On 3/23/2021 at 7:06 AM, RedBlue said:

pg2 - Au’s antagonising of the jailer comes off a bit silly. It’s obvious that he’ll get himself hurt. Is the moment of defiance worth the pain and potential injury? It’s good to have his behaviour change over the course of the chapter, but his attitude here could be toned down and it would make more sense. 

The jailer is the most tropey part of the revised chapter. He needs to make Au suffer, which he’s doing, but the way he goes about it and his attitude are textbook ‘sadistic prison guard’ stuff. If you can think of a more original or surprising way for this character to be a monster, it would make his sections more interesting. 

23 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 2: The hatred he felt towards the guard and the Count inspired him to live on and struggle against hopelessness. He would find a way out, he would find his family, and he would have his justice. <-- this is very shallow motivation, and very tropey. It reads like a comic book for very young children. I want my protagonist to be more complex than this, and he needs more motivation than just blanket revenge to drive the narrative. 

1 hour ago, karamel said:

Pg 2

-”the hatred he felt inspired him to live on… he would have justice” I agree with @kais in that im not crazy about his motivation. Tropes aside, this feels a bit strong coming from the version of A I read in the previous versions of chapter 1 and 2. Is A a particularly angry person? Is this realistic for him or is it just something that's convenient for plot? I would of course be upset if I were in A’s position, but i'm not sure I would react this way. And that's fine, some people are more strong willed than others, but this just feels 2 dimensional and cheap.

Definitely a great point about A's attitude and motivation. I agree that it's pretty shallow/tropey/2-dimensional to have his driving motivation be revenge. I need to address what a more complex set of motivations could be.
I had A be so defiant and hot-headed as a flaw of pride in his character, but it does feel like a bit much now that y'all mention it. I want A to be sort of shallow and willful at this stage so that he can realize how pointless and immature he is later on when more bad than good comes of it. But I'm sure there's a more nuanced way I can portray this. Thanks!

 

On 3/23/2021 at 7:06 AM, RedBlue said:

pg3 - ‘much dirtier than he would have expected’ - it might help if I had some reference for how dirty that is. And initially, I assumed the dirt was soil. Going over it again, that doesn’t make sense. Is the dirt supposed to be worn away stone? I don’t think stone works like that?

Yeah, I'm not sure either haha. I was basing the escape loosely on actual escapes and imagining that if someone were to use a spoon to get through stone, that you would only end up scraping minute layers of dust from it while also destroying the spoon in the process. I think I need to reconsider this whole element. I like that he eventually just tries to hone an edge on it, so I may be able to fandangle around the prospect of actually digging out.

On 3/23/2021 at 7:06 AM, RedBlue said:

pg4 - setting question: is it normal for the Count to keep prisoners for extended periods of time? What for? Is the Count’s dungeon part of normal law enforcement in the area? Ignore me if this was explained in chapter 1, but explaining exactly what this place is could help flesh out the setting. 

It was not explained, but it will be explained to some degree/altered. No, I don't think it's normal for the count to keep prisoners for extended periods of time. It's not part of normal law enforcement. I was thinking it was more of a private place that the count used for his own reasons beyond the scope of normal law enforcement. I need to hang a lantern on the idea of past prisoners that I haven't put much thought into (not gonna lie.) The reason A is kept there for so long is because he wasn't there to make any executive decisions on the matter. He was more concerned about Maria and getting her to his leader. Thanks for that though, it helps with refining the story.

On 3/23/2021 at 7:06 AM, RedBlue said:

pg6 - Does Au connect the blue light magic thing to the spell that the Count cast on the parents? Should he? Also, the way it is described makes it sound like Au resists quite easily. Is this because Au is special, or did the parents submit willingly? If this is a mystery to be revealed later then don’t worry about it, but if these are not questions I’m supposed to have, that scene needs to be clarified. 

pg8 - If the guards bind Au’s ankles, do they plan to carry him? How is he walking?

pg10/11 - are Au’s hands still bound for all of this? Also, I don’t think you can cut through hempen rope with a sharpened spoon that quickly or easily. 

He doesn't completely make the connection. The reason why it's easy for A to resist is yes because there's something special about him that will be revealed later.

As for the binding, you raise an excellent point. I think I got confused in my head about thinking of people's ankles being chained together but then went for rope for the convenience of being able to cut through it. Now that you mention it, I don't see why his ankles need to be bound at all. That would also eliminate the illogic of A cutting through the rope so easily.

Thanks for all your helpful comments!

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On 3/23/2021 at 2:59 PM, kais said:

Overall

This is loads better than the last version, for sure. The gothic tone has dropped away as well and it's coming across as more standard European fantasy fare, but still relying almost entirely on tropes. The spoon part was good but we need still more uniqueness to really get this narrative moving, and we still need a global arc as well (see below).

1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
There is more, but still not enough to drive the chapter. I need global stakes still.
 
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
I do, but only in that he seems to be a stock character from a stock European fantasy book
 
3. How's the dialogue? 
Better! We have lost the gothic feel. It's still stilted and cliched in places, but better!
 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?
YES. And nicely done on that. Revision is not easy. I don't care for how much time he spends in his cell, but at least I get a feel for his desperation now.

Thank you, Kais. You are so right on about this story needing more of a global arc. I know what it is, but it's injecting it organically in these first couple chapters that I'm struggling to do. I'm glad the gothic tone has dropped away because I never intended this story to be entirely gothic.

I'm happy that you think this is an improvement! That's all I'm really going for at this point, making each revision a little better than the last. Clearly, I need to make A more complex and the situations more unique. Somehow I need to get away from the stock, conventional tropes that are so ingrained in my brain haha. I think that cutting out some unnecessary lines and scenes from the prison will diminish the feeling of things dragging on.

On 3/23/2021 at 2:59 PM, kais said:

As I go

- your first sentence is not a great hook. I'd suggest opening each chapter with a strong, catchy sentence to make the reader want to keep reading

- I laughed at the training in the cell. We've moved from gothic atmosphere to a Rocky movie!

- pg 2: lot of redundancy on the word 'pain' in this page

- I will say that this time around, I have a much better sense of how long he has been imprisoned

That first piece of advice is something so seemingly obvious but that I need to be reminded of haha. The first line needs to hook the reader. Yes.
Haha, maybe the training montage needs to be more nuanced. Though Rocky is pretty legit.

Yes, I can see how much redundancy there is, I could exchange a lot of the words and phrases for elements that help move the story forward.

On 3/23/2021 at 2:59 PM, kais said:

- pg 7: was innocent of any crime, <-- why would this matter? The count is clearly evil so why would the kid think he would care about the law

- pg 8: Saint Gabriel <-- so this isn't other world fantasy, it's Western European post-Christianity fantasy?

- his escape didn't have any really particularly clever elements to it. I'd have liked to have seen a bit more plot involved before he got away

I suppose he's directing that sentiment to Ercole more so, which he sees as somewhat less evil than the count and more just blindingly subservient. But you're right, obviously the count and Ercole wouldn't give a crap about the law.

Well, it's not entirely western European post-christianity fantasy, but it's something along those lines. @C_Vallion made some great points about this. I had it in my mind that this world is sort of a post-apocolyptic earth that had to start from scratch. I also had it that Saint Gabriel was one of the founders of the Four-fold Kingdom and a powerful mage. He and his siblings sacrificed themselves to seal a power under the kingdom while simultaneously creating a barrier around it. But Gabriel and his siblings over the years have been conflated into one Martyr that the Southern fold worship. It's sort of a half-baked idea, and I think it would help tremendously if I changed the character's name to be less overtly Catholic, seeing as there's the Archangel Gabriel.

I agree the escape could be much more clever. I'll need to get back to the drawing board to consider how the escape could be more clever, the jail scenes less lengthy, an added element of global stakes, and less 2-dimensional motivations for the characters. Thanks for all your helpful observations!

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12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

1       There’s a much better sense of actual danger through the potential execution and the escape, but the ability to just run away is surprising.  Weren’t there walls and gates?  Did all of the guards show up weighed down by full battle armor for the execution of a malnourished seventeen year old? It seems like it would take more cleverness for him to get away.

2       I like that he’s far more active this time around. Even when he’s stuck in the cell, he’s trying to keep up his strength, and actively pursues something that might give him a chance to escape once he sees it.  I still don’t have much of a sense of his personality, but his struggle to escape is far more engaging this time around.

3       Definitely a lot better (really, all of the language is a lot less wordy and stilted). Though some of that might be a general impression because there isn’t as much of it breaking up the rest of the text.  There is still spots that need work, but this is far better than previous chapters in that regard.

4       Yes! Focusing in on A- having to make his own decisions and figure things out on his own does a much better job of making him an engaging character.  There’s no one for him to just blindly go along with, and we see more of his capabilities in place of someone else’s.   

Definitely needs to be more clever, and you raise good points that I overlooked in the changing of certain elements. Thanks so much for your comments!

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Pg 1:

Still seeing verb tense errors in cases like “he had kept track of the days” instead of “he kept track of the days.”  The latter implies he’s doing it in line with the current timeline of the story.  But when it’s talking about “in the beginning” you need the past perfect tense. Any time the character is thinking back to something that had happened before the current scene is taking place.

“He had lost track after a week”, “hope of freedom had become”, “series of events that had led him there.”

If he has been there long enough to know that the guard is going to start beating him, it seems odd that he would antagonize him.  If it was the first day or two, and he hadn’t figure out how cruel the guard was going to be, mouthing off makes sense.  But I would have expected him to learn better after weeks.

This is a great lesson, thank you. You taught me something about using past perfect tense that I didn't know.

I think I had A mouthing off because of a prideful devil-may-care attitude towards his situation. Knowing that though he could be beaten down, he couldn't be broken. But you're right, it doesn't really make sense in any actual scenario.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Pg 3:

Ordinary stone. Stone.” Is there some realization being made here?  The repetition seems odd.

The giant paragraph on page 3 could be split up to add some emphasis to certain lines.  As it is now, it’s a rather intimidating block of text.

So now he’s trying to get along with the jailer. Why not during the first weeks?

The realization is that the stone dust must have come from the stone being chipped or scraped away. I mean, it doesn't make a ton of sense, and I'll probably change up that sequence. Though I do want to keep the sharpening of the spoon into a shiv.

He's trying to get along with the jailer at that point because he sees hope which requires his full strength. Before then, he was hopeless and bitter and fueled is self-pity by antagonizing the guard and getting beat up.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

.Pg 7:

Five guards seems like a lot to send for one person who’s been underfed for weeks.  How many guards does the count have? And what are they doing all day every other day? Seems like a pretty boring job. Hope they’re getting paid well. [note after reading on: especially if they are also all turning blind eyes to abductions and child-murder]

Oh. An axe and executioner and everything.  Why not just cut his throat in the cell and be done with it? It does make for a very clear, terrifying picture for A-.  I do think that is good.  But the part of me that likes to poke at little details isn’t convinced that it’s worth the count’s time or effort to set up this formal execution. What’s the benefit to the count to paint this terrifying scene for A? Especially if he’s not even going to be there.   

I generally assume that formal executions are going to be a sort of power play for the one doing the executing.  To make a public display of the death in an attempt to prevent other people from doing the same thing.  Or to show a rebel group that their rebel leader is no more.  It makes for a solid threatening image for A-, but from the count’s perspective, why bother making a big show of it?  And where did he find six guards who are fine with formally murdering a child? Does he have some hold over them? Or are they just normal guys with lives and families who happen to get paid a ton of money to overlook the horrors they see at work?

This is great and I honestly didn't think of that. It makes total sense that a formal execution should have a purpose. It's true too that why should the count need so many guards? I suppose he wouldn't need any in actuality. Which could make for more opportunities for A to escape. I'm thinking of a combination of ideas here. Perhaps E could be sent by the count to slit A's throat (having also acted as the jailer) and then A can stab frail, old E and escape through an open door. But then again, would they risk sending E into the cell with a boy who has proven fairly robust? Decisions, decisions...

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Pg 8:

“Saint Gab-“ I know you had mentioned before that this isn’t exactly Christianity, but at the moment, I can’t tell the difference between this and some form of Roman Catholicism.  Even if the name Gab- is more strongly associated with Archangel Gab- in Christianity,  there’s no way at this point for me to know that he isn’t praying to an actually-existing catholic saint.  Which would make me assume that this is some sort of version of our world, or an alternate history, and not something entirely different.  It might be helpful to make some minor adjustments to make sure this first hint at A’s religious beliefs falls squarely into one setting or the other, to avoid confusing people later.  I can chat about the religious aspect of world building all day long, so feel free to send a message if you want any other thoughts or feedback on that front.

Why do the jailer and guards think he’s a criminal?  Were none of them there when his family was invited for dinner?

“murmured a prayer he remembered from his lessons” Is he praying this out loud? To put on a show while he’s cutting the ropes?  The murmuring suggests not, but the “remembered from his lessons” implies that he’s not all that devout.  At which point, why is he going through the prayer anyway? Also, the prayer does not help my understanding of the setting. The terminology is too close to Christian prayers for me to see it as anything else, though the theology issues of praying to a saint (or archangel, with the Gab- reference) for redemption from sins immediately makes me cringe.  I think you’d said he was the Jesus-figure in the world’s religion.  But for him to go by the title of Saint creates a lot of issues if there are additional saints. Unless all of the saints can grant redemption. 
Ultimately, I can see any Catholic readers getting really antsy about some of this unless there are clearer lines drawn between this and Roman Catholicism.   And a lot of confusion for people who are going to label it as Catholicism then find out it’s something different. 

Yeah, I could probably use some help in the religious world-building side of things (well at every aspect of writing if I'm being honest with myself haha.) In my head, I got as far as there being a sort of powerful, almost enlightened leader (or multiple leaders) that sacrificed themselves in order to save and protect the kingdom thousands of years ago. Then I supposed a similar religion to Christianity would spawn from that, but I'm definitely out of my depths in that area.

The jailer and guards think he's a criminal because he attacked the count and E in chapter 1. The parents waltzed out of there brainwashed and the guards are just lied to by the count and E about A's situation. Though I can see how many problems with logic these guards are producing now haha.

Well he's going through the prayer as an excuse to get on his knees, bow his head, and secretly cut the binds on his ankles. As @RedBlue pointed out, it doesn't make any sense that his legs would be bound in the first place haha. Unless he was being carried. So I can probably get rid of that whole part.

Ah those are good points. Since the religion is loosely based on Christianity, I just reworded an actual prayer from that to fit in my world. I suppose I should chat with you about what's a good alternative to the religion in this story haha. I certainly don't want to offend anyone's religion by mistake.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Pg 9:

“Primordial fear fueled him…He jogged up the mountain…” jogged?  I know he’s tired at this point, but jogging, to me, implies intentionally slowing his pace.

A few questions about the layout of our escape. Are they already partway up the mountain?  Seems like if he’s near the bottom, it wouldn’t be steep enough to scramble on hands and knees and be kicking rocks loose for quite a while.  Is there no tree cover where he currently is?  Where exactly is he fleeing to if there’s no cover? If they’re shooting arrows at him, I assume they can see him clearly enough to aim, in which case it seems odd that he could have lost them.

I would have written sprinted, but from my experience of running up mountains, it usually devolves into a jog pretty quickly if the hill is steep enough haha.

Yes, they're partway up a mountain, on the foothill of the mountain. That was a last-minute change to suit the new plot developments--making the manor on foothills to a mountain rather than a stand-alone hill.

He's fleeing in general away from the manor and into the mountain range. I was thinking of doing an out of the fire into the frying pan sort of thing there. But it's all pretty half-baked since this story is going in such different directions than the first draft I wrote.

They haven't lost him. The count ordered them to stop. He decided to send one of his wolves after him. It all sounds silly when I write it down like this haha. No, I think I'll need to create a more clever escape for A. Thanks for all your feedback! Are you taking a break from uploading chapters? 

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4 hours ago, karamel said:

I want to first note that your pacing in this one is strides better. I didn’t comment on your last chapter but I did read it and my main issue with it was pacing. Just like the very first chapter you sent, I felt like things kept happening one after another without any time for us to take it in let alone for the characters to take it in. I think that ties in with the lack of emotion from A, adding more emotion and spending more time in his head helped with the pacing. We needed more reactive scenes vs active I felt like. And you've done that here so, good job! :)

1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
Yes, more tension for sure, especially near the end with the axe coming down on him while he tried to escape.
 
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
Kind of. He is def an unlikeable character imo; he feels like a wild, cocky teenager when faced with the jailer. I don't know what to latch onto with him. Is he smart? Is he strong? is he cunning? is he sensitive? is he witty? what am i suppose to like about him? I'm just not crazy about him and I dont care if he dies yet. That sounds harsh, and I don't mean it to be, but I just think he could use a little more work if he is our main POV.
 
3. How's the dialogue? 
Better! Some cliches with the jailer, but overall it is better.
 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?
Yes! I think this is better paced, has better tension, has better characterization (though still not enough), but less world building and less global stakes (like @kais said) It does feel very small. Also, the way it ended... idk if I would read on if I picked this up at a bookstore. I'd probably put it down. there's not a whole lot pulling me forward.

Thank you, Karamel.

I wanted to make A unlikeable and immature in the beginning so that he can develop maturity as the story progresses. But I suppose he should have some clear, good qualities about him. I like what you mentioned about something to latch onto.

I'm glad you're sharing your opinion so openly! I need to know that you don't care if A dies (lol) and that you probably wouldn't keep reading this story based on what's going on so far. It informs me of what needs to be changed, which is the whole point of this forum I think.

4 hours ago, karamel said:

Pg 1

-“He had a bed in the cell” this is telling. I think you can do better than this sentence; something like “He rolled onto his side and stared at the bed across his cell.” that isnt perfect, but the point is we’ve condensed the two sentences you have and showed the reader that A has a bed but is choosing to lay on the floor. And i feel like that’s a good indication that he is feeling low. We can assume he isn’t feeling great if he is on the floor when there’s a bed that is most likely more comfortable than the stone floor.

Yes, thanks for this tip. Like others said, I go into too much detail about things at points and it's unnecessary.

4 hours ago, karamel said:

Pg 3

-“Could it be that someone used a spoon?” why am I reading this in an eccentric overly-comical british accent

-“A smile stretched across his face and he laughed” he is coming off as very delusional, idk if that was the intention or not.

-“When the jailer was sleeping” there’s only one jailer? Not multiple to cover breaks? I feel like the count would be smarter than this.

-“The weeks rolled by” weeks? Seems rather long. Why is the count keeping him? I feel like it might be cheaper for the count to kill him.

Pg 4

-“Hello, jailer” im trying to imagine that im in prison, would i say “hello, prison guard”? eh, probably not.

Haha I can imagine someone like Hugh Laurie saying it in an overly-comical way.

It is sort of the intention for him to come off as delusional. He's basically going mad and gripping hard to the smallest glimmer of hope. But yeah, it's not the most convincing or necessary way of portraying that idea.

Well, there's only one jailer because there's only 1 prisoner and they're not very concerned about him escaping seeing as he's securely locked up. The jailer is really there more to feed him and check up on him.

As I mentioned before, the reason why the count kept him there for so long is because he was away from the manor with Maria and just got back. He wasn't very concerned about A, but still wanted to avoid killing him if possible.

Yeah, hello jailer is a bit silly.

4 hours ago, karamel said:

Pg 5

-I dont really like A, he seems too feral. I dont empathize with him.

Pg 7

-“Five guards” wait where were all these guards when the jailer was sleeping?? they could've covered his break or something

-I think this is way better than before, but it feels like a chapter in the middle of the book rather than chapter 2 where we don’t really know A or care too much about him yet.

-“Innocent of any crime” his crime was seeing the count steal his sister and mind control his parents, thats enough of a reason for the count to kill him. heck, he should’ve done it sooner imo.

Honestly I'm wondering if the whole prison escape scene isn't a bit too soon for this story. Seeing as we don't really know what's going on in the world or why we should care about any of the characters. Hmm...

Well, thanks for all your helpful comments! I feel like I learn so much every time I get these critiques and when I read the other submissions.

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

Are you taking a break from uploading chapters? 

Yeah. I'll be jumping back in with either a revised Chapter 1 or a short story that I've been working on here in the next couple weeks.  Just wanted some of the dust to settle to provide a fresher start after cutting the old opening chapters. And revising took longer than expected because I started in on some of my to-read list in the process, and have probably been doing more reading and writing this past week or so.  Oops.

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

I think I had A mouthing off because of a prideful devil-may-care attitude towards his situation. Knowing that though he could be beaten down, he couldn't be broken. But you're right, it doesn't really make sense in any actual scenario.

I think that would work fine for the first day or two, but when you mentioned that he'd been there for weeks by then, it just seems like he's setting out to get a beating. Having him learn from initial interactions is an option for him to be actively making a decision not to antagonize the guard, and having the self-control to follow through, no matter how much he wants to strike out (verbally or physically) at him.

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

It's true too that why should the count need so many guards? I suppose he wouldn't need any in actuality. Which could make for more opportunities for A to escape.

I was thinking this might help you out on that front as well :) 

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

I had it in my mind that this world is sort of a post-apocolyptic earth that had to start from scratch. I also had it that Saint Gabriel was one of the founders of the Four-fold Kingdom and a powerful mage. He and his siblings sacrificed themselves to seal a power under the kingdom while simultaneously creating a barrier around it. But Gabriel and his siblings over the years have been conflated into one Martyr that the Southern fold worship. It's sort of a half-baked idea, and I think it would help tremendously if I changed the character's name to be less overtly Catholic, seeing as there's the Archangel Gabriel.

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

Yeah, I could probably use some help in the religious world-building side of things (well at every aspect of writing if I'm being honest with myself haha.) In my head, I got as far as there being a sort of powerful, almost enlightened leader (or multiple leaders) that sacrificed themselves in order to save and protect the kingdom thousands of years ago. Then I supposed a similar religion to Christianity would spawn from that, but I'm definitely out of my depths in that area.

Ultimately, a lot of religion details can be brushed over if they aren't central to the plot of your story.  The fact that yours is inherently tied into the history of the kingdom is going to make that trickier (especially if part of the story leads into unearthing the secrets behind what they all believe), but I would still offer the same advice offered to me about not introducing too much at once, and not introducing it before you need to. I'm still pretty horrible at actually applying that advice, but I do recognize it as good advice. You want to use the religion to tell us something about the characters (which is also going to help with having the feeling of more well-rounded characters).  

If you're changing the scene around, it's probably not going to be relevant anyway, but the possibilities I liked about A- insisting on praying before the execution were that it either shows him as 1. devout about his religion and really believes that prayer for his soul is necessary to make up for his supposed sins (not as much fun, but it shapes his character)  or 2. He isn't devout.  Doesn't actually believe in it. But he had to learn things about it as a kid and knows some people are devout and that if the guards are in any way decent human beings, they might humor his going through the rituals, which can buy him some time to do something. 

It seems like the latter point was what you were leaning toward, but the murmuring of the prayer to himself (instead of saying it out loud) and his actually remembering the full prayer contradict that a little. If they can't hear him, what does it matter what he's actually saying (and if he doesn't actually believe it, I'd expect some fudging of the words to reflect that)? So we get the full prayer, which acts as a bit of a religion info dump, but we don't get as much about what it means to him, which is what we care more about at this point.  I grew up in a very culturally-Catholic area, so most of my friends went through the whole process of being baptized and catechized and checking the related boxes of being a "Proper Catholic", but if I asked them now, I doubt many (if any) of them would remember wording of specific prayers unless they are recited at holiday-related-mass.  Because it was more of a community expectation than a devout belief. Even now, they probably like the comfort of tradition surrounding it, but may or may not actually believe any of it. 

10 hours ago, julienreel said:

Ah those are good points. Since the religion is loosely based on Christianity, I just reworded an actual prayer from that to fit in my world. I suppose I should chat with you about what's a good alternative to the religion in this story haha. I certainly don't want to offend anyone's religion by mistake.

At the moment, the concern I would see is not necessarily offending people of a certain religion so much as implying connections to a certain religion that aren't actually there and confusing people.  Most religious fantasy readers are going to expect to come across religions that differ from their own (or ones that satirize their own to some extent).  But things like using a Christian prayer or even the name/title of Saint Gab- are going to have people that are familiar with Christianity making assumptions about the world that aren't accurate.  Which will probably be really confusing and frustrating when they find out it's different. 

The main issue I see here is praying to Saint Gab- for forgiveness from sins, which implies a concept of sin and a need to be saved from it.  In Christianity, the whole point of the sacrifice of the "enlightened leader" is that Jesus wasn't claiming to be an enlightened leader.  He was claiming to be God.  And his sacrifice was specifically intended to save his followers from the consequences of their sin. Because when God's law is broken, blood must be shed as a consequence —hence the blood sacrifices in ancient Israel— and the only sacrifice big enough to cover the sins of all of his followers is some form of the sacrifice of God himself, in the form of Jesus.  So the sacrifice is directly related to the sin problem, and if Jesus is God, he has the power to offer forgiveness, so Christians pray to him for forgiveness, since it was his death that solved their sin problem. In very rough terms. 

So by having A- pray to Saint Gab- for forgiveness from sins (basically, by referencing a Christian prayer), it's implying that 1. there is a sin problem in the world, and 2. Saint Gab- is the one who gets to make the final call on whether or not people should be forgiven.  Referencing Christian prayers might be relevant if that's what you're going for, but unless it's important to the religion and world, I'd avoid the concept of sin as a whole because I think any reference to it is going to tie things far closer to Christianity than you probably want to. 

There's certainly room for people sort of deifying a great hero or great mage (the follow-up story to Price of Peace deals with this to some extent, so I've thought about it a bit, and will likely be doing so more as I do the actual writing instead of just outlining it).  And if Saint Gab- was part of saving the kingdom from destruction, it would make sense for someone to pray to him to be saved from eternal destruction (this branches off into questions about what awaits in eternity. What A- wants to be saved from. And what greater power is in charge of that. But that's a whole other can of worms).  But bringing the concept of being saved from sin is going to tie it far more closely to Christianity than I think you are going to want to do because of the implications it's going to carry with it.  The closer it is, the more you're going to have trouble with "But if this is like Christianity, then why does x happen.  And how does y work.  And what ever happened to z?"

Many readers won't really care about the answers to those questions (unless they are me and enjoy poking at these things).  But if they recognize it as "sort of like Christianity" the questions will come up, and if the story religion clashes with the understanding they have, they'll get confused or frustrated.  Whereas if you're mostly working with a great mage/hero/etc. who is now basically viewed as a god, there are theological concepts you don't have to address directly or at all.  When you're starting with a blank page, you can just leave some spots blank.  But if you're working from something that already exists (and is something that most people will have an existing understanding of), you have to be careful that the spots you would have preferred to leave blank don't already have things inked in.

And now, before I find another rabbit trail to start off on, I'm going to leave it at that. Feel free to stop me if any of this is overwhelming or un-looked-for.  Hopefully parts of it are helpful, but I know I tend to ramble when I start on these sorts of things.  And if it's sort of helpful and you'd like to direct me at anything specific, feel free to point me in that direction and let me wander that way a bit. 

Edited by C_Vallion
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13 hours ago, julienreel said:

Thanks, RedBlue, I appreciate it. Yeah, you raise an excellent point about A escaping by just running away. Other people have commented on that too, it's not very clever or realistic. I'll need to think of something better than that.

The idea of A trying to scrape his way out, realise it’s not working, and then using the scraping to improvise a weapon is a good starting point. You just need to put A in a situation where he can use the ship in a clever way to escape believably. 

12 hours ago, julienreel said:

Yeah, I could probably use some help in the religious world-building side of things (well at every aspect of writing if I'm being honest with myself haha.) In my head, I got as far as there being a sort of powerful, almost enlightened leader (or multiple leaders) that sacrificed themselves in order to save and protect the kingdom thousands of years ago. Then I supposed a similar religion to Christianity would spawn from that, but I'm definitely out of my depths in that area.

When I read your chapter, I kind of assumed that the religion was actual Catholicism. Using the title ‘Saint’ is very coded Catholic, and using the name Gab. is coded Christian when in conjunction with religious elements, and I don’t know enough about medieval Catholic beliefs to pick out differences.

If you’re going for building your own religion then there’s nothing wrong with pulling aspects from real-world Christianity, but you should probably make it more clear in the text that this is a fantasy religion. Otherwise it could get confusing/misleading. For example, you could use some other word instead of ‘Saint’, maybe have a character demonstrate or reference an aspect of religion that is clearly unique to your setting. Especially if the religion is going to be important later.

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Overall: I like this version better! I think everything I want to say is covered in the questions below.

On 3/22/2021 at 0:43 AM, julienreel said:
1. Is there more tension in this version? ie. Do you feel more imminent danger?
2. Do you get a better sense of Aurelius? Does he feel like more of an MC?
3. How's the dialogue? 
4. Do you think this is an improvement from the last version?

1. More tension, yes. Because A is doing things himself instead of letting G take care of everything. Imminent danger? Not really because of the time scale. The fact that C is keeping A in here for weeks before anything happens kinda dulls the tension for me.

2. Yes! ...But I think there's still a ways to go. He definitely feels more like an MC, and I feel more connected to him because he's the one doing stuff. I think room for improvement is that his personality and skillset are pretty nonspecific. I could imagine most protags reacting the way he does to his situation, so he doesn't really stand out to me. 

3. I think it's better... for everyone except A. The count and the jailer have good lines, for the most part, but A's responses never tell me much about character dynamics or even really what's going on. 

4. Yep! 

As I go:

pg 1: Wasn't C trying to be reasonable and only cared about M? The more focus that's on A rotting away in a cell, the less I'm sure why it's happening

-I like the exercise. More than anything in the last chapter, he's taking his own initiative and doing something. Gotta start small. 

-hmm though when it's revealed to be a habitual thing I care a lot less. Makes me wonder why we're focusing in on this moment.

pg 2: The motion of the guard going in and bonking A all happens very quickly. Unless the cell is really small and he just has to reach in. 

pg 3: Is A the bragging type? I didn't think of him that way. Though I do like that we're getting more characterization. 

pg 4: I still don't really understand why C has to keep A imprisoned. There are already rumors that he's a demon, right? I don't think A recounting his experiences will change much. 

pg 5: Why is he waiting several weeks to make this offer? Did he want to break some of A's spirit beforehand? 

-Execution makes a lot more sense than keeping him here for several weeks already. 

pg 6: A here feels very visceral and that's something I don't like. I feel like bursts of anger like this cause the emotions to crowd out the dynamics of the story, especially since what he's saying here is pretty generic. This could also just be a personal pet peeve, though. 

-Bro why are you punching the wall?

pg 7: I like A shifting to determination but I think I need it to be justified by a plot shift (hard to do when he's stuck in a cell the whole time, I know). Right now it feels pretty spontaneous.

pg 8: I like this ploy of his. Assuming that the jailer hasn't been told of his innocence is a good bet to make. 

-Stabbing someone in the neck is kinda brutal. I assume this is A's first time doing it? It's believable that he could do it without problem but I don't think it should feel so casually written. 

 

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8 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

And now, before I find another rabbit trail to start off on, I'm going to leave it at that. Feel free to stop me if any of this is overwhelming or un-looked-for.  Hopefully parts of it are helpful, but I know I tend to ramble when I start on these sorts of things.  And if it's sort of helpful and you'd like to direct me at anything specific, feel free to point me in that direction and let me wander that way a bit. 

Oh no this was very clear and helpful, thank you very much for taking the time out to offer me these lessons :) 

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1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Overall: I like this version better! I think everything I want to say is covered in the questions below.

1. More tension, yes. Because A is doing things himself instead of letting G take care of everything. Imminent danger? Not really because of the time scale. The fact that C is keeping A in here for weeks before anything happens kinda dulls the tension for me.

2. Yes! ...But I think there's still a ways to go. He definitely feels more like an MC, and I feel more connected to him because he's the one doing stuff. I think room for improvement is that his personality and skillset are pretty nonspecific. I could imagine most protags reacting the way he does to his situation, so he doesn't really stand out to me. 

3. I think it's better... for everyone except A. The count and the jailer have good lines, for the most part, but A's responses never tell me much about character dynamics or even really what's going on. 

4. Yep! 

1. Yeah perhaps the time scale is too long. My idea is that the count was away for that time, delivering Maria personally to his boss. A is more of an afterthought that he has to deal with when he gets back. But I can probably reduce the time to something like a couple of weeks or whatever. And I'm sure the escape could be more clever.

2. Yeah, I'm struggling to think about what makes A unique. I have a vague understanding in my head about his personality, but I don't have any unique experiences that would set him apart from any other generic character with those personality traits. He's more of the spontaneous, thrill-seeking type. He's selfish to a degree, but he'll sacrifice himself for his values. He doesn't think far ahead and prefers to live in the moment.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 1: Wasn't C trying to be reasonable and only cared about M? The more focus that's on A rotting away in a cell, the less I'm sure why it's happening

-I like the exercise. More than anything in the last chapter, he's taking his own initiative and doing something. Gotta start small. 

-hmm though when it's revealed to be a habitual thing I care a lot less. Makes me wonder why we're focusing in on this moment.

As I said above, he's rotting away because the count isn't even there at the time and left loose instructions to keep A alive.

I suppose I'm focusing in on that moment just to characterize A and show that he's keeping up his strength. But you make a good point, I could make it more of a turning point and that could be more powerful.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 2: The motion of the guard going in and bonking A all happens very quickly. Unless the cell is really small and he just has to reach in. 

pg 3: Is A the bragging type? I didn't think of him that way. Though I do like that we're getting more characterization. 

Good point, I could take more time with the guard approaching and glowering and the such.

Yeah, I had him as a bit of a bragging type. I'm going through this process where I'm trying to make A unique but also sort of unlikeable. I need there to be some things likeable about him, but I want there to be a maturation process as well.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 4: I still don't really understand why C has to keep A imprisoned. There are already rumors that he's a demon, right? I don't think A recounting his experiences will change much. 

This is something that I thought of too. Would the count really care if A gets out and tells anyone what happened to him? I ignored that thought for plot convenience, but you're right. 

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 6: A here feels very visceral and that's something I don't like. I feel like bursts of anger like this cause the emotions to crowd out the dynamics of the story, especially since what he's saying here is pretty generic. This could also just be a personal pet peeve, though. 

-Bro why are you punching the wall?

pg 7: I like A shifting to determination but I think I need it to be justified by a plot shift (hard to do when he's stuck in a cell the whole time, I know). Right now it feels pretty spontaneous.

Yeah, I think you're right about pg 6. I was having my doubts while editing it too. Like with A punching the wall, I wanted to portray how emotionally driven A is and how much it affects his decisions. I'm not saying it's a good trait, but it's something I suppose I'm more personally familiar with.

I think the insertion of a plot shift is necessary as well. It is hard because he's stuck in a cell, but I'm sure it can be tweaked to allow a plot shift. Because, as Kais said, there needs to be global stakes as well as personal stakes.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

-Stabbing someone in the neck is kinda brutal. I assume this is A's first time doing it? It's believable that he could do it without problem but I don't think it should feel so casually written. 

This is a great point that I didn't put much thought into. It's a good opportunity to show how messed up A's life has become and is going to become. I'm sure I could use better descriptions to showcase that. At the time, I just wanted to give the sense of how quickly the scene was progressing for A. It was a rapid series of actions and it was all about speed and movement.

Thanks for all your helpful comments, Ace! 

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