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June 11th - Wrim - The Acrobat and the Jester Chapter 1 - S


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Hello, this is my first draft.

This story is about how two characters use Luck as a guideline to life, from two different viewpoints.

The chapter focuses on introducing two characters and their differences.

Mildly suggestive content in the beginning.

I almost used a mirror to describe a character (which I've heard is talked about at times in a certain podcast).

Edit: And apparently I left the Title "The Lucky Ones" in the .doc. Whoops.

Edited by Wrim
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- Page 1

- Are you sure you want to start your story with such a common dialogue exchange? Not only that, but her being tired doesn't seem to play a role at all in the rest of the chapter.

- Wouldn't the water be colored brown, not just the water's surface?

- The redundancy. In a matter of only a few lines we see dripped drips. Swollen eyelids irritated eyes. Light-source light-bulb. I didn't see this problem in the rest of the chapter.

- I'm interested to know why it is exactly 30 minutes.

- Is it necessary to point out that their human?

- If they know what prunes are, and we know what prunes are, wouldn't they just say prunes?

- Why are they cleaning their hair right before they get out? Aren't they already clean by this point?

- Page 2

- Is a profession not a choice? I assume, by its repetition later, that this turn of phrase becomes important later. I can't help but think this would be a good way to start the chapter and a good way to introduce the characters faster. Just the "profession not a choice" parts.

- How can random things cause such cat-like reflexes? Why is her work so much more dangerous than his if they work together? I'm really interested to see what, exactly, it is that they do, and how luck plays a roll.

- The omniscient narrator. I have some initial doubts, though it is handled very well at different points of the chapter.

- Page 3

- I don't have a sense of the environment. I'm picturing an actual large bath house, like you might find at a spa, but then it's more like a common bathroom. Then it's an abandoned, derelict.

- The part where he catches some boots and thinks it's a good thing/luck. Great!

- I like the part about taking risks, but I think you can make your point in a sentence or two rather than a half-page paragraph.

- Page 4

- By this point I'm wondering what the point of keeping them unnamed is.

- The grape sequence is my favorite in the chapter, especially the fact that you don't really know if she pushed the chair or not.

- How do you calculate fate? This intrigues me! I really hope we get to see some of this math in depth as the story goes along.

- Have you read the Elements of Style? I have to be honest and say that the formatting, grammar, and spelling detract greatly from the ideas you are trying to portray. I know it's a first draft but...

- You've done the main thing a first chapter is supposed to do, you have me wanting to read the next so I can find out more about their jobs, them, and this way to calculate fate. :)

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I don’t want to sound harsh and maybe I do (most likely I do), but I’ll be honest here, this chapter needs a lot of work. In fact, it probably needs to go completely once you start editing/rewriting the first draft.

I agree with most of the points that Jack raised, so I won’t go into them overly much. I do want to address a couple things.

Hook: One of the primary functions of a first chapter is to draw in the reader. You have to entice the reader to keep going and this chapter doesn’t do that for me at all. It’s about a man and a woman taking a bath. Real slice-of-life stuff, with a couple small twists (house is derelict, somehow being a jester and acrobat is life-threatening, there’s something odd going on with luck) but none of those things are sufficiently powerful to keep my interest in light of the rest of the chapter.

Perspective: At first I thought you were using third-person limited with a lot of perspective errors, but I suppose you’re using third-person omniscient instead. That isn’t a style you often see anymore and to me it’s a style that doesn’t work really well for me, though mileage may vary. In this chapter the omniscient viewpoint felt bland and not involved with the characters. Which leads to my next point.

Characters: I’m not drawn to these characters, they don’t even have names, just ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’. This doesn’t help at all in connecting with them. It also doesn’t help that I have almost no image of these people aside from gender. If you’re trying for an air of mystery, this is not the way to do it. It just creates a detachment from the characters where you really need to make the reader feel for them. At least give them names, give them conflict. Let them actually do something.

Location: The characters start the story in a bathroom with functional plumbing, e.g. the bath. But then all of a sudden they’re actually in a derelict house, rubble all over the place. How does this place even have running water left?

Description: You describe what the characters are doing, but hardly anything on what they look like or where things take place. How are they dressed, what kind of time period are we talking about here? Is it modern times, something medieval? I’m leaning towards modern based on the house, but jester and acrobat make me think medieval. I’d like see this cleared up. You mentioned how you almost used a mirror. You’re right, this is a bad way to do it, but not giving any description at all isn’t good either.

Rumination: Both characters ruminate a lot about their worries, going on about choice, profession, chance. Ad nauseam. You tell about these worries instead of showing them. She is worried about chance catching up with her. Apparently this is a big deal, but this isn’t given enough gravity in the slice-of-life environment. Is she just obsessive or superstitious? Is there an actual reason why chance would turn on them when it hasn’t before? Or has it before? I don’t know and therefore her concerns don’t resonate with me. I don’t know the characters or the setting well enough yet.

Style and grammar: Jack already touched upon it. This might very well be the most detracting thing about the chapter, but make no mistake, even if it was spot on that still leaves the above issues. Though I will say that the grammar mistakes and the like probably made the above points worse for me. I’d strongly suggest looking into grammar rules and style, because I see the simplest mistakes all over the place and once seen it cannot be unseen.

"Are you all right? You look pale." He asked.

Should actually be:

"Are you all right? You look pale," he asked.

This is just a basic rule of dialogue punctuation.

Why do you have a couple of sentences that are indented so much? They read almost like scene changes here and there. This just isn’t done.

You also have sentences that seem to ramble and are hard to parse. Some actually made my eyes glaze over and I had to put conscious effort into reading them, instead of skipping to the end.

The tap slowly dripped its last few drips into the murky mixture or gunk, herbs and ointments added to mend the senses of its habitants.
The man helped the woman clean her long brown hair from mud-cakes, and they grabbed each other’s arms as they stood up to shower away the last remnants of wilderness from their bodies.

These are two such examples. Even if this is a first draft I think these are things you should look into. The ideas about using luck and chance might be interesting, but at present they are being overshadowed.

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OK, my last exam that I can really work hard towards was earlier today, and so I decided to start on the backlog that I've received... I haven't critiqued much before, and so I'm unsure how helpful this will be...

Before I start I'd like to say that I enjoyed the chapter as a whole, and will certainly read more in future, however, I agree with a lot of what the others have said, and I probably can't add too much. I am not trying to be mean, but just saying my immediate reactions.

Something I noticed is that, for me at least, it was quite difficult to get into the flow. It seemed more like a series of events that are being listed opposed to a story. For example:

The man helped the woman clean her long brown hair from mud-cakes, and they grabbed each other’s arms as they stood up to shower away the last remnants of wilderness from their bodies.

The woman stepped out of the tub, padded herself with a white towel and tied it around her wet hair into the shape of a turban.

Furthermore, I think you try to cram too much into one sentence. It's a mouthful to try and read - I think that if you introduce the characters with names this may be a little less of the case, as I'm sure that it's the repetition of "the" that creates this. As the others have touched upon, it seems unnecessary to keep them unnamed, we don't get as attached to the characters, and it makes it more awkward for you to describe what is happening.

However, this isn't the only reason why it felt as if it's like a list, it was also quite jarring from paragraph to paragraph such as:

They moved into the kitchen, sat down by a table and dined on toast, dried fruit and juice from freshly squeezed oranges. The room was a heap like all the others, with sooty windows and burgled drawers, but they had made it into a temporary home for the night. The kitchen was clean enough for two people to sit and eat, but dirty enough to be considered as abandoned. The man’s hands trembled as he ate.

To me, that brings me out of the narrative, which, in turn, makes me less interested in the story. I like to be able to read something through without any breaks in the narrative, unless they're intended to be there - like scene and chapter breaks.

On the narrative itself, I found it to be lacking almost. You have a very minimalistic style, and that's fine, some people prefer writing like that. However, at no point are the characters really described - we're told that the woman has long brown hair, and that they are about the same height, but we're not really told anything else other than that their fingers are wrinkled as they get out of the bath. As a result we don't really connect to the characters as much as we could have. We feel as if we know characters better if we know what they look like. (Or maybe that's just me, I don't know)

Anyway, I second that it is more told, rather than shown, and that the grammar really detracts from the story, and for me, the style also does this. - As Asmodemon said, many of the sentences do tend to ramble a little.

Well, those were my immediate reactions to the scene, and I hoped it helped at least a little... I hope you don't see me as being harsh; I'm honestly not trying to be...

Also, I know this is a first draft, however, grammar really does help the reader, and I personally spent a couple of hours just looking over various uses of punctuation, dialogue tags, action tags etcetera before I started writing seriously.

All in all, I think you've got some interesting ideas, although at the moment there are things that draw me out of the narrative, making it harder for me to read it.

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Keep in mind that you don't HAVE to describe the characters physically right off the bat. In fact, if you can make the characters interesting without describing them, then you can add little visual cues as you go. But, like G & A pointed out, the characters don't really feel real. And I'm not sure a physical description would help at this point.

Also, the bath scene has been bugging me. Why are they bathing together? Nothing in the chapter explains this.

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Thank you all for your constructive feedback!

I know it's not the right thing to answer some your questions with excuses, but I blame the presence of bad grammar on that English isn't my first language. These were all Swedish thoughts translated into English. Not directly, but maybe too hasty.

Thank you for pointing it out!

I will take all your thoughts to heart, and I thought I'd give you each a few short sentences about a few things as response.

Jack the Halls: Thank you for observing the redundancy, you're absolutely right.

I haven't read Elements of Style, but I will check it out!

Asmodemon: Thank you for structuring your critique. I will go back to your hints and use your advice in the future!

Guenhywvar: Thank you very much for your comments about sentence structure.

I had actually made it shorter at first, but I added more because I thought it would be impressive.

I tried to be overly ambitious and it failed :D That was actually a relief!

Over all, I think my main problem is that I know what I want to tell, but I don't describe it properly.

I wrote too complicated about certain things and could have described other things in more detail.

You have pointed out my flaws and without you I wouldn't have been aware of them.

Thank you all for taking your time to critiquing my words and pointing me in the right direction.

I will study further about perspective. :)

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I will keep it short, as I think the guys above mentioned everything I was going to. I do, however, have a few things to add.

First of all I felt like you did a good job of explaining the difference in their philosophies on luck without having to spell it out -- though you did then go ahead and spell it out which is something I would say wasn't necessary and could, in fact, be removed.

I would also like to address the Swedish to English translation. Being a Swede myself I can see that some of the problems might stem from the translation and the difference between the languages. As someone who has have had to translate parts of a story -- though in my case from English to Swedish rather than the other way around -- I know that it doesn't always come out as you want it to. Something I could suggest that might work for you is to not try and translate the story or even have the Swedish version around when you write. Instead simply start writing it from the beginning in English. You will still remember what you wanted to say but you wont be tied to the specific wording of the Swedish text.

Hope that helps.


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I'll try not to repeat too much of what others said, but I figured I'd throw my opinion in here as well.

I was also slightly confused by the viewpoint thing, but that was more my expectations than anything I feel is inherently wrong with omniscient. It might be possible to smooth over some of the viewpoint changes so that they aren't quite so abrupt, but that can wait until bigger problems are resolved.

Also, although there were significant grammatical changes needed before I'd suggest it is submitted anywhere, they didn't really distract me too much from the story.

What did distract me was the lack of names for the characters. This annoys me almost any time I see it, despite the fact that it is occasionally useful. However, that usually happens in third-person limited viewpoints, where the POV doesn't know who the other character is, but enough hints are usually given to the reader that they can figure it out. Here, it feels like the narrative gets distorted from the lack of names, and neither of the previous conditions apply -- it is omniscient POV, so the narrator can certainly give their names, and the characters also know each other.

To me, this drove a lot of my other criticisms of the chapter, especially the early part. While there are hints of an interesting situation behind the scenes, the two characters are basically just having a normal morning without any apparent disturbance to their usual routine. In short, I can't find much tension at all inherent in the opening of the chapter, and what is there (scrubbing off dirt and soot after a long night) dissipates when it has no more bearing on the rest of the chapter.

Also throughout the chapter, I had problems connecting with the characters. Part of this is probably the names thing for me, but more of it had to do with no insight into the characters themselves; what they wanted, what they were having problems with, or anything like that.

Now, near the end of the chapter we have a reflection on the two character's difference views on luck. I liked this, both because it introduced tension between the two (however slight), and because it seemed to be setting up future events in the story. I especially liked the idea of the man calculating luck variances based on recent occurrences, and hope to see more of that in the future.

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