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Oct 24 - Yados - Black Magic, Blacker Deeds [G]


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I want to point out that everything about this is very tentative. Especially the title. In fact suggestions are very, very welcome there. Bring them on.

Basically, this is my NaNoWriMo... but not really since I'm starting early. I just want to get a novel done so I can let it sit while writing another and then come back to it in a few months and do some heavy lifting. But I also like feedback so ... yeah.

General Feedback. I feel like I laid the magic system on a little thick in the prologue. But I felt that since so much time is spent on a character gradually learning a different Magic System (Black) that having what Red can do laid out in the beginning will simplify things later on when it comes into play.

I *really* want to stick to this. So I'm going to write it to the end no matter how much I end up hating it. Currently, the elevator pitch is Lies of Locke Lamora meets Frankenstein meets Surrogates.

So here's the prologue and the first chapter introducing a one off secondary character and one of the two main povs.

Edited by Yados
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Oh also:

Anyone reading now should completely disregard the prologue. I've reworked a lot of the plot/chronology and while those events do happen, they happen very differently and with different circumstances/characters and within the main progression of the plot.

So yeah.


Plus I was really unhappy with them.

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Lol, okay so I will lay off the prologue. It needed a lot of work, so I'm glad you saw that.

As to the first chapter, I liked it, although I was a bit confused. What I liked: the main character was shrewd and practical, if a little abrupt. I can handle a main character like that and like them. Also, I thought the concept of what he did (what little we saw) was well done. Character and setting were good, so check.

Things that concerned me: so far, we have met a thief (semi-retired), a thief (retired), a baker, and a thief (aspiring). That might be a few too many thieves for my taste, but that's my own point of view.

Doh. Out of time. Will edit and continue this later.

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Yeah, I noticed that too. Ranzi has been completely excised.

The plethora of reformed/practicing thieves is because the book centers around an ex-thieving crew who, 5 years ago, did some things that wiped their slates clean and allowed them to live in luxury/legitimacy. How they have dealt with those circumstances and what they'll do to hang onto them when an unfilled contract from their criminal days comes into play... plot of the story, etc.

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Okay, that makes more sense. I guess my main concern is that the characters all seem to be glorifying their past and yet none of them liked it enough to continue. I know you changed the prologue, but the version I read (I didn't get the note not to read it in time to not read it) was pretty blood-thirsty. The main character killed without remorse or conscience--and he too glorified his thieving, killing days. I don't know if this will be the theme, but it kind of kills any sympathy I might have for your characters.

I did like your black mage as I said in my last post. His work ethic and responsibility made him respectible even if he was a bit abrupt and conceited. He has both good and bad qualities, but the balance is tilted toward good, so I like him. Now, toss on top of the balance his longing for the good old days of stealing and killing and that balance tips more toward bad guy.

The story is still interesting at this point and I like it, even if I haven't been given a character I can really root for yet. But we need someone to cheer for at this point. Then again, if the prologue was less bloody and remorseless (and you've said you changed it), the reminiscing about simpler times as a thief might not have such dire implications.

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Huh, you know that's an interesting point. I never really consider my characters' morality when crafting them. I mean, I think about voice, their likes, their dislikes, their personaliy, their temper, their demeanor, the kinds of actions which would be reasonable or extreme for them, but never quite a full moral code.

But then, I don't think "wow, this is gritty and remorseless" when I'm writing something like the failed-prologue. I actually think "what a light, fun romp". So I may well be a bit of a sociopath. The jury is still out.

I try to give Till some sympathetic, if flawed, traits in the second chapter. I'll be interested to see how that effects your judgement of his worth as a protagonist. Especially since cutting back some of the cast made him sole pov. A non-homicidal Surr also makes an appearance and their relationship is established, tennuous though it is.

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I really liked how your magic systems seem to be built. Very interesting and great possibilities. I did however get a little confused as to how the sword worked. Was it his blood that fuels it or is it blood in general that makes it work. Second i think i agree that your characters need a system of beliefs to check their actions. Its obvious that Till feels guilty about what he did in the past, hence the soup kitchens ect... but this same regret is not presenting itself when he is killing people or speaking with his clients. I know your planning on doing something with this already, so I guess what i would consider is this if he was a thief in a former life his system might be a little skewed if only because in order to do things like steal or murder your mind would have to be able to reconcile your actions. So that might make some of his actions in the chapter things he might not have remorse over. Also when he is talking about building another orphanage it felt like he was doing what was sociably the correct thing to do when betraying ones country or commiting a crime. At first i thought maybe the nobles had a system of penances for misdeeds, say indulgences for crime. Just something that came to me as i was reading.

I enjoyed reading this and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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  • 1 month later...

I actually thought the prologue was a nice little bit of writing. If it doesn't fit with the book or how you want to tell the story now, then it's a good idea to cut or move it, but I wanted to at least mention it to you.

My biggest and first impression while looking back over this section as a whole is that the piece needs a good through-edit. I mean one where you (or someone like us) reads through it and marks all the points that something doesn't make sense. There were a few places where it seemed like a sentence just completely switched to a different one in the middle, if not actually switching paragraphs. Some examples:

It was going to be a trip ride back to Ga-Vern but he might as well enjoy it.
No one ever cared about the Till squatted in his armchair, pulling it up off the ground
The golden thing made no [end paragraph]
Now awake, the bileling had around the mental capacity of an actual dragon as they existed in Reach

This last one does make sense, but it was phrased such that I had to read it a few times to parse it when I first reached it.

Other than those, there were also places where the words and sentences could be understood, but I was somewhat confused about the whole. For example, although the prologue showed a bit of what red magic could do, I didn't get much of a sense of what Surr's goal was that he was expending the effort for. I thought his arrival at the Line was sudden, as he had just been admiring his handiwork at the beginning of the paragraph, and I didn't think the guards he killed were at his goal, just between him and the goal. Another example was the start of the first chapter, when a client wanted Till to design something, and the words used made me think architecture. I thought a bit of an idea what Till does would be handy, and later in the chapter a brief bit on what billings were (if not later important to the story, which it didn't seem that was, since apparently many people knew of them). Also, a little more background about what Till expected from everyone before hearing it from Cern might have been a little less confusing. Finally (in this vein), I thought it might be nice to know what Till anticipated from the dragon he gave to Cern rather than just see it happen, then get the reaction.

I thought Till was the most relatable of the characters shown so far. I was slightly concerned about the introduction of three different characters right away (even though my last book did the same), but I've seen the later post where you say you've cut it down to basically just Till. I also enjoyed the bit about Till being in a different profession (or having a hierarchy, at least), if he could manage to produce enough gold for a thirty-foot dragon.

One last note, a few phrases and comparisons caught my eye. Nothing major, but some slightly modern things that I wasn't sure I expected in what appeared to be a fantasy setting. For example, describing the elf hair as if burning magnesium... it might happen in some slightly more modern fantasy settings, but it did make me hesitate for a bit. Another example right at the beginning was Surr using "socioeconomic bias", which you may well have changed by now, and another is "mental capacity". I'm personally of the opinion that things along those lines are fine to write in the first drafts if they describe what you want, but they are things you should be aware of at least via critique, so here I am making you aware of them.

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Thank you so much for taking a look at this.

Yeah, I like Surr, but I didn't really like the Introduction. One, I added some more pathos to his character that isn't apparent yet but which doesn't fit with the perspective. Two, the way that Surr is using blood magic isn't quite the way it works for everyone else. Hemokenisis has some pretty cool benefits, but it isn't what I want to lead with as the common usage of blood isn't nearly as visual or fast-paced. It's a subtle Humor.

I have someone using blood differently in the new prologue. It's more in line with the "eye on the street" use of magic in this world. It also introduces Till and Surr as they were five years ago, which I think adds something to the events going forward. You'll have to let me know if it works for you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting, so Till – the Black Hands – survived whatever happened in the (rewritten) prologue. At least I assumed (before reading your comment) that this takes place after the prologue, from the scene I can’t be completely sure since you’ve given no time frame here. I think I’d have liked to have read more about what happened directly after the prologue ended, since Coil was an interesting character, but I’ll see where this is going. Jumping to the perspective of the ‘bad guy’ is an interesting choice. He didn’t garner much sympathy from me in the prologue, so you’ll have to create that fast.

I did find Till to be an interesting character in the prologue, the magic he used was intriguing as was his nature. We’re seeing his practical and impassionate side again here, but in a different setting – this time he’s not killing anyone, he just doesn’t want to make gaudy things for a client. The fact that he shows some good qualities here makes it easier to like him. He’s reluctant to use his magic to make things just because he can, which also raises the question of why he did what he did in the prologue – raising the black stuff and killing everyone, sacrificing the city to the invading forces.

Mostly I agree with what everyone has said already, there are some rough patches here and there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a good read over. It wasn’t as interesting as the prologue though, the pace dropped way down and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing you have to be careful at the start of the book. Compared to Coil, who’s plight drew more sympathy than Till’s pathos in this chapter, Till isn’t that sympathetic. As Coil isn’t going to be a POV character anymore (I’m assuming) I’ll need some more reasons to hook me to Till – this chapter didn’t have much of that yet, so I’m hoping the next chapters will.

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I just read the latest version of the prologue you sent out, and it does seem cleaner and with a better pace. The only thing I really want to mention from it is the jump to the first chapter. As Asmodemon hinted at, there is no time frame presented at the beginning of the first chapter, so we don't know if it's before or after the scenes in the prologue. If I was coming at it fresh, I would think that the prologue is a glimpse of what will be happening at the end of the book, and the book showing what caused the group to betray the city. This would last until mention of Ayami (or Till's deceased wife, I can't remember which comes first), at which point I would be a little confused.

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