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Jan 23 - Yados - The Mortal Coil Prologue and Chapter 1


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Well done sir. Well done.

I really liked this. It's the first thing I've read for this group that really has gotten me going and caring. The story is darker than I would generally read, but I'm very impressed.

You've raised a few questions I feel Coil would have answered somewhere in his thoughts. Specifically, does he have the plague too? It doesn't seem like it but a line saying he didn't somewhere would be helpful. Your references to human immortality scare me. As do some of the timeline bits. Maybe a reference to the fact immortality was lost within their dad's lifetime for clarification.

Otherwise I don't have much. I'd like more though.

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I definitely like it. Quite a bit drew me in.

The opening with Rae dying was well done. I felt a part of it. But perhaps bring her description (the boils and blisters/bone white skin) forward a little more. I was surprised at her description after the fact, I had pictured a wasting sickness akin to starving.

More specifically, I'm loving the fear of the world. The Guardians and the Sight. Storing the dead instead of burying them, coupled with the 'unpredictable' soil has me thinking the world is alive...has me fearing the world itself, the same intrigue that had me drooling over cold fire trilogy.

The bad impressions...

The elves reference as the native people was a little bit of an eye-roll, if only because of the cliche behind the name.

Also, I'm really glad I read the first post before putting this up. Maybe it's general knowledge from the sequel (Black Magic), but with Rae dying at 10, and reference to the Death Times coming centuries after their father left the Watches seems contradictory. Wouldn't that make Rae hundreds of years old? Or is one year=a hundred years to them? Very confusing.

But apparently immortality is dying out among these people. Problem is I had to get that from the first post. I'd be left very confused without that.

All in all though, great start to the story. Lots to get a reader like me hooked. And I indeed can't wait for more.

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The bad impressions...

The elves reference as the native people was a little bit of an eye-roll, if only because of the cliche behind the name.

Also, I'm really glad I read the first post before putting this up. Maybe it's general knowledge from the sequel (Black Magic), but with Rae dying at 10, and reference to the Death Times coming centuries after their father left the Watches seems contradictory. Wouldn't that make Rae hundreds of years old? Or is one year=a hundred years to them? Very confusing.

But apparently immortality is dying out among these people. Problem is I had to get that from the first post. I'd be left very confused without that.

Well, to put it plain (and this is something that will be explained in the *very* next chapter) Coil and Rae are17 and 10 respectively. Real years. Their parents were hundreds if not thousands of years old, who never had children until man started dying (which has happened gradually and region-specifically over the last hundred years).

Most inhabitants, even the few individuals within the walls of Vern who are still immortal, were born on the current continent. People can be fourth or fifth generation but still be centuries old. Most people out in the Watches would be around 20th to 27th generation and mortal the last man. That Coil is 17 but first generation is exceedingly rare and of some small religious/political significance. But.. plot.

But no, Rae is ten. Her father is very old. He left the lands in the West, where the ships landed, to go to the East (where they are now) hundreds of years ago. He left for elsewhere 9 years ago, after Rae was born. Rae was born within the Deathtimes.

I hope this helps.

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Interesting, I don’t see the connection yet between this new book and “Black Magic, Blacker Deeds”, but this chapter doesn’t need that connection to stand on its own. It’s a very good start. The way you did the prologue – a ‘leading’ conversation – is usually something I hate, but here it works for me. There are plenty of hooks here, humanity’s immortality, immortality failing (why?), Coil’s loss, it makes me want to read more.

I agree with the others that the sickness of Rae should be made clearer from the start, I too thought she was wasting away rather than suffer other physical ailments. And I don’t much care for elves either.

The immortality angle is a good one, but it wasn’t really clear what you meant by some of the time spans mentioned. For instance, their father left nine years ago, which is called ‘a long time ago’. The loss of immortality is also ‘a long time ago’. Is this also in the span of a decade or is it longer ago? I got the sense it’s longer, but the two senses of time conflict with each other. In the post above you mention generations, so it’s definitely longer, but it’s not clear how long ago this immortality started to fail exactly and how this related to Coil and Rae. I had to get Coil’s age from the above post – the way he spoke to Rae made him seem far older.

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First off, I admit I was verging on a tear after watching Rae pass.

Their father's tale of beating the system by sacrificing eternal life impressed me. I already have a load of questions waiting to be answered in later chapters! I haven't read Black Magic, Blacker Deeds, but your style of writing another book doesn't feel like it's going to need me to read that to enjoy this one as a stand-alone work, which is good.

I have to say I was confused on two parts. I know it could be just me and not anyone else, but here they are anywho:

Chapter 1-pg. 1-paragraph 1:

Given the smell, it was a mercy.

Not quite sure what smell this was referencing, her body? If so, then I have to infer that you mean her body wasn't stinking yet. As I read on, you mention the smell of the house, and this causes me to connect the smells as one, but still seems uncertain why it would be explained this way in the quote.

The other part that I don't quite get is whether the civil services lady is a cannibal or just really into her job... I could see it either way, but I still have an eerie feeling that its leaning toward the former. Maybe it's just the number of times she is described as hungrily anticipating results, but the whole feeling of people being starved in the winter helps this image.

So to sum up, very amazing job. It's a full-fledged hook for me on the part of the legend behind it all. I'm confused on smell of rotting flesh being mercifully comforting. I'm scared to death that every old lady I see walking around town is watching and waiting to dine on my flesh.

An honest rating out from me is 4/5. I feel the only thing holding back that last star is my confusion. With further chapters explaining each part would readily pop up up to full stars, however. B)

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I see many of the people who have posted have already read your former story, Blacker Deeds, which I have only read the revised prologue of. I'm kinda new to this thread, so I'll continue the critique from the eyes of someone who has only read this story (which I hear is a stand alone anyway). First off, I wasn’t aware that this was connected at all to Blacker Deeds until I read about Coil and the Stompman at the end. But I'm really liking this version/stand alone better. I'll go on to say what I like, what needs to be made clearer, and what I think didn’t turn out so well in this critique. I don't really point out irregularities in sentence structure, grammar and all that (unless it REALLY bugs me) simply because I really don’t know if this is a first draft or not. But to focus on the story, here it goes

What I like:

-The prologue- I’m not all that crazy about prologues, but I think it works here. The scene with Coil and Rae could potentially be a heart breaker, I think if it is played to really hit home the idea that Rae is dying (but more on that later). The idea that Coil is with his little sister’s dying breaths is very mentally disturbing, and genuinely saddening. Its good without being overly sentimental, where I have seen scenes like this crash and burn. You seem to have good sensibilities in regards to this, so kudos.

-The narrative flow- I found myself being much less confused in this version than the last. In the last one, characters seem to show up out of left field, and I had a hard time distinguishing them from one another. Here however, your viewpoint character Coil always remains as the clear viewpoint. The narrative structure flows as well, and explains the natural progression of the scene and its course through each subsequent chapter/prologue.

-Narrative description- This is a true strength of yours. You have a keen eye/ear, for the world your characters inhabit. I was really taken by the following paragraph; “The cottage had smelled of warmth once. Hadn't it? If he focused, Coil could still remember the scents of rooftop harvests-- nights at his mother's side. Cinnamon and cloves and the healthy sweat of long days wrestling with crops. The smoked savor of meat on the fire. They had been three-- Coil, Rae, and their mother-- and there had been love.”

This is a fantastic paragraph. It isn’t long, but already it establishes so much of the backstory without overindulging. Coil grew up on a cottage. He is probably of a rancher, or farming background. His mother and family are farmers struggling to make ends meets with crops. The meat signifies a hearty, healthy diet (I don’t know, I assume Coil might be a strong man/soldier because of it). Coil, Rae and their mother, they are all related and a strong family. Now, I could be wrong about some of these things, but considering I'm a reader going by my first impression, I'll pretend I'm right for now. What's great about this segment is that the reasons for thinking this are are easy to believe because of the clarity of the paragraph. Kudos on the narrative. It does just what a paragraph has to do; describes something, describes our character’s relationship to that something, and our character’s relationship to other characters that involve themselves with that something. Really nice job.

-Characterization- Coil really stands out in mind, not so much his character, but his circumstance. Right off the bat he has lost something he has loved, and we sympathize with that. He sounds even more like a badass because by the end of chapter one, he is on a mission to kill death, which I think in the context of your story (immortality, plagues, and all that), I think it could make for really interesting scenarios. The other characters (Horst and the old lady) really stand out in mind as well. I really like the contrast of the old woman and Horst. I love how one really explains the thing they mean to convey, and the other (Horst) merely says single word answers, like “Dead.” And “Angry.” This is great characterization. I think this a good character team and a great character foil, a talker, and a dead pan. I would find ways to play this up even more if they are to be reoccurring characters in the novel. Give them opposing ideologies/philosophies, but have them work together and cooperate despite the fact.

What needs to be clearer:

-Rae’s death- I didn’t understand that the little girl Rae was dying of the plague until the very end. You need to make this clearer. Perhaps her making gasping sounds, breath drawing shorter, things like that. I mean, I get that she was bloody on the mouth and nose, but this wasn’t enough for me to signify death. Shortness of breath and coldness in body temperature are things we (well, me at least, when I saw a couple grandparents of mine die personally) I think would help us associate it with death, just as examples.

-The opening line- This is an exception to the odd sentence structuring I found throughout (which I said I wouldn’t talk about). But because this is your opening line, I feel it is even more on the spot light. This one really needs to get me into your story.

“He woke with the body of his sister clutched so desperately to his chest that it cut off his panicked gasp. Given the smell, it was a mercy.”

I think another person commented on the awkwardness of "given the smell" line. But I guess I'll just reiterate. I think I know what you’re trying to say, at least, in concept. He screamed and didn’t breathe because his sister smells rancid, or something along those lines. I don’t mean to write the novel for you, but something along the lines of “he gasped at his sister’s dead body. Choking up on his tears made him unaware of her rancid smell.” That’s probably a bad example, but I’m sure you get the general idea. That is of course, assuming she has been dead for awhile. The fact that I'm not quite sure also may need some clarifying. These are two separate lines of description that may not even need combining into one sentence. Sometimes two quick powerful jabs of description can be even more enthralling than one long, convoluted one.

What doesn’t work:

-Awkward sentence structure- Okay, I’m a talking contradiction here, talking about sentence structure when I said I wouldn’t, but personally, I feel like this needed making note of. There are some real wonky sentences in this story so far. I’ll highlight just a few of them. Keep in mind, they are really jarring to a reader like me when I’m cruising along and am taken out of the moment with an awkward line. Just a few read overs and they’ll add to what I think is a great story in the making. Sentences like;

“But it was only a moment and, when the memory Rae’s empty eyes returned, they wrenched out his heart anew.”

I think know what you’re trying to say, but again, the sentence just needs reworking. A simple line like, “Rae’s empty eyes returned the feeling of heartache,” would do just fine.


“Squat, the word might have been-- and certainly, the rest of her physical properties reinforced the term’s viability.”

“Squat, the word might have been” if this is how people of Coil’s descent describe people of this stature, I would suggest just saying “She was squat.” And “certainly, the rest of her physical properties reinforced the term’s viability.” This is just far too formal and analytical a sentence. I would merely suggest getting right to the point. Make it as short and sweet as possible. Even better, exaggerate how short this woman is to make it a point that Coil think she is tiny. “She was squat. No taller than a tree stump.” Or something along those lines. Sure, she can’t be shorter than a tree stump, but we understand the hyperbole, and we get the idea that she is vertically challenged, or whatever your people’s colloquial term describes it as in the book. I only comment on this sentence because I think there are more examples that I think fall along those lines; sentences like:

“Good morning,” Coil replied, routine forging untruth so quickly he almost missed it. He fidgeted.”

You completely lost me at “routine forging untruth so quickly he almost missed it.” The word forging and untruth just doesn’t fit together in that sentence. Forging of course brings up all sorts of imagery. I just happened to notice this a lot in similar stories, but I guess I'm one to believe that the easiest way to describe it is the best.

And lastly (although this is more of a world building thing),

“They lay peacefully in the snow– beautiful, frosted, and awaiting the kiss of a fair prince to awaken them.”

I’m not sure if this signifies a fairy tale in this world, but it is far too similar to Sleeping Beauty to be taken for its own original merit. And I know there are elves and all that inhabit this world (which I kinda agree with another commenter, I think brings to mind far too many cliches). And its hard to say what goes into an original fairy tale in fantasy, but taking something original of the world in which you write in and writing a mythos that is told along the lines of how people understand it would be a great place to start. This however, reeks too much of the Brother’s Grim.

Anyway, not to be too big of a grammar nazi, these things can easily be worked out. I’m not sure what draft you are on, but these can be low priority checklists on your edits. The good news is that this is really the only gripe I had with the story.

All in all, I really enjoyed the read. I’ll be coming back for more of Mortal Coil.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I really liked it.

Most of my comments have been covered by others, so I will attempt to be brief and just hit the others.

This is a small nit-pick, but the beginning of the prologue (and some other places), you sometimes have what I would consider two paragraphs rolled into one. The very first paragraph is one example, where I would split it between Rae's speech, and Coil's actions (holding her tightly). A couple paragraphs done, you also have Coil start rocking Rae in the paragraph with her text, followed by his own. I would split his actions into the paragraph with his own words, instead of intermixing them.

As I said, it's small, but I think it would help my other problem with the introduction, which is that I thought the first few paragraphs were slow and harder to read than the rest of the story (so far). I think it would work better if you could move one of the unique elements of the story up closer to the very beginning. Off the top of my head, I wonder about having the request for the story, and have Coil start right in, and only then ask if she truly wants to listen to the story.

I will say I wasn't confused about times as some of the other readers were. I got a reasonable sense of Coil's age (I would have guessed around 14-ish), and I understood the chronology of their father as presented so far. The text didn't clearly state how recently the plague started (that I recall), though, so if that is important it might help to add.

The two civil engineers and their conversation threw me a little out of the story. I think a lot of it was that their speech was so modern, after a slightly older version that Coil was using for the story. I was especially thrown by the "loved one-slash-family member" part, but also algorithm and corroborating.

I thought the grandmotherly part was too overdone and drawn out.

I was confused by the phrasing "Plague schedules you...". It made it seem as if the Plague was engineered and programmed to hit certain people at certain times. (If that is truly the case, which I doubt but can't dismiss, you might want to work to make sure it reads like it should, and not like an accidental phrasing.) Also where Banner was referenced, I keep reading it as Banner being located near a pair with a girl in the house with the plague, instead of your intending message of the pair learning about his sister via Banner. The soil also, but more particularly their mother bringing their soil. I think that can be solved by saying "brought their own soil" or something, emphasizing that theirs is different than the other soil nearby.

Hardbread seemed like an odd curse, especially since it's something he might be considered to be carrying at the time.

Also, I kept expecting a reference to drawing the sword (since it was scabbarded on the wall). Did Coil attack with the sword still in the scabbard? It's not unreasonable, just unusual enough you'd want to clarify that as well.

Finally, I thought the mention of the pattern was confusing. This early in a story with a lot of apparently odd things going on, I thought you meant that the sun had begun to rise, confirming the pattern of sun risings.

Well, it looks like I had a bit more to say than I expected. I'll cut it off here, but I'm looking forward to reading more.

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