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2012 July 2 - Mandamon - Dreams of Dust - First Half[L] [V]


Mandamon

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Hello all,

This is the first half of a short story I wrote to take a break from other things and just give myself free reign. It's a little cruder, so I tagged it with [L] and [V]. Just interested to see what people think of this. I actually wrote a set of five of these short stories that are interconnected, but each of them can stand alone, until the final one.

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Awesomes

Very well characterized.

Obviously well thought out. You put everything down, so your mental vision has to be great.

Tiny Cows

Issues

Too many adjectives. I would look up Jim Butcher's live journal entry on Character Tags(Or Traits or something like that.) I would guess the idea is to characterize him through the complex descriptions, but in a lot of ways you're telling not showing and cramming way more information than I can process. Especially considering, given the massive bulk of information, a lot of it is bound to be useless. I myself often skip by needless description(Like what the excessive dress information in WoT.) This feels the same, but constant...

I couldn't read very far into this... It felt like nothing happened. You had a page of internal monologue per second or so of book time. It was uncomfortable and made it hard to get through to the meat of the story.

I apologize for the largely negative post... There is a lot you got right, just remember that your readers will fill in the blanks. If I say; Jimbob walked through the dense jungle foliage, you get a really vivid picture. If I say; Jimbob walked through the dense, green and brown, razorsharp, bug filled, jungle foliage; you get a bigger picture but none of the excess is relevant and it's awkward to read.

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- I like that he thinks Ambroj is worse than him and the capping factor is that she kills animals.

- These people are in prison, killing other prisoners? Huh?

- Why would he be proud of the metalminds' efficiency?

- Why does anyone try to escape? Whatever government oversees this prison, it's obvious they don't care. Demanding release from the citizens of the colonies doesn't seem like it would work.

- I get the feeling that this guy would know the difference between a metaphor and an analogy.

- The prose are much tighter toward the beginning of the story. Around page 8, it starts getting somewhat sloppy.

- I feel you jump back and forth between the story and backstory a bit too much. I assume you do this to avoid info-dumping, but instead of having a single info- dump to push through, I get info-splattered throughout the majority of the story.

- A lot of the information you give us is unnecessary. That isn't to say that it's a bad thing that YOU know the history of the prison, even the orbit, but it should be in a separate file and not in the main text. In novels, we have the luxury of world building, even adding details that don't add to the plot in some way, but in a short story, you can't do that. My advice is to go back through and cut every piece of information that isn't directly pertinent to the plot of this story. You can probably cut back on at least a 1/3 of the pages, and your story will be better for it.

- Him defending his analogies and whatnot feels more like YOU defending YOUR writing. Having it once or twice works well with the character, but you don't want to fall back on it too much.

- I don't get a sense of setting. It's a prison. Then a junkyard. Then... Where? I don't know. How is it he can just wander around and yet Ambroj has to be stuck in a cell?

- Why does he care about Ambroj if she's going to her death anyway? Also, you build her up like she's going to be important later, and then, poof. I have to admit, it took me by surprise, which is good, but I feel we spend too much time with her considering the poofiness. This goes back to the aforementioned unnecessary information.

- Why are there human guards at all?

- About halfway through that I don't know what the metalminds even look like.

- What is the garbage? What do these prisoners actually do? I'm confused... Like, he escapes just by walking away? No big deal? I mean, he notices the lack of guards and stuff, and he seems happy to be out of there, but then later he's just searching for food? In the below freezing cold junkyard?

- The word faggots feels out of character. Despite his crass and negatively sarcastic nature, I don't seem him as the type that is particularly hateful, if that makes sense.

- The end of page 14, where the walrus reveals himself to be psychic, was really well done.

- The analogies and similes and metaphors. There are WAY too many. How many different things did he compare the people who run the prison to? They were meat, then eggs, then rats, and a few others I believe. This happens throughout. He makes some sort of reference with everything and everybody, which isn't so bad, but when he's making two, three, or four different comparisons (like with the walrus guy at the end) it becomes too much.

- Was he not trying to escape? Did I read that wrong? This walrus guard, is he a guard or not? Why does he trust the walrus? Is the guy sitting at a table eating or something? Was he specifically waiting for the narrator to come? I know there is another half to the story, but right now I don't really understand what's going on. I don't know. Maybe it's because this story feels like it starts multiple times. First I think it's about killing Ambroj. Wait. Nope. Then I think it's about escaping. Wait. Nope. Then it actually starts with him meeting the walrus guard.

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Okay, so I'm actually happy about the comments I got on this. It feels like I hit what I was trying to do, even if maybe what I was trying to do wasn't correct...

First I'll say that I'm not trying to defend any of this...I don't think this is my best work, but I'm interested to see what response this piece gets. I tried to write on this specifically when I was frustrated or angry, simply because I don't do "negative" emotion very well.

As I said, this was an excercise in me letting go and just writing, able to put in whatever I wanted. The overabundace of adjectives, and the obsession with (incorrect) analogy and metaphor was intentional. I wanted it to jolt the reader. Now if it makes you stop reading, that's probably too much... I've had readers who liked it and some who hated it. The flashbacks were meant to be along the same lines.

the prison and environs are vague and chaotic, definitely ignored by the rest of the system, but it looks like I should put in some more description to place things more concretely.

- The word faggots feels out of character. Despite his crass and negatively sarcastic nature, I don't seem him as the type that is particularly hateful, if that makes sense.

Yeah, I waffled over that one. I still do, whenever I look back over this. I dunno.

Ambroj is built up for a reason, but for the five joined stories. If this one is read alone, I could take some of that build-up out.

I think the second half ties up some of those hanging questions. For this as a stand-alone novel, you could almost characterize the happenings as magical realism or stream-of-consciousness, where things don't always make sense, but in the joined short stories, they get more of an explanation.

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The overabundace of adjectives, and the obsession with (incorrect) analogy and metaphor was intentional. I wanted it to jolt the reader.

I think what's happening is that it happens so often that it's actually losing its jolt. Once, twice, three times a jolt is good. But when it starts happening four, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty times throughout the course of the story... You get what I'm saying. If I hadn't been reading this for writing group, I would have started skimming every time he started making an analogy because I knew A ) that there would be ever more and more coming and B ) that the narrator was going to admit that the analogy didn't make any sense anyway, so why bother reading it?

Edited by Jack the Halls
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I completely agree. You should have seen the first draft...

This one still needs some major work, but I've felt more for this character than some others I've written. Not sure if it's because I was writing with a strong emotion, or what.

I'll have the other half up next week. I'm interested to see what people think of the end.

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I actually enjoyed this immensely, some pros and cons:

Pros:

--Very quick, witty flow to the dialogue, the character felt very much like he was printing this out as he relived the memory, it was a good feeling, and gave it a very interesting feeling

--I got a good feeling for the emotions of the character

--I was very quickly reminded of Douglass Adams, not a bad thing at all, but it felt very similar

I didn't find the use of adjectives distracting but on a re-read I noticed some that felt superfluous. Some of them could probably be dropped, and some of the description/history of the prison could probably be dropped and still attain the same feeling. If some of those details became more relevant to the story then explaining them might be beneficial, but some of the history sounds exactly like it was geared towards the reader.

Cons:

It almost felt too much like Hitchhikers, It might be that I've only read that book once, and it was a long while ago, but that was at the forefront of my mind when I was reading it, so that might be an incorrect feeling/assumption.

Some of the description felt like it was just "Hey, look at this cool setting I thought up" which (don't get me wrong is awesome) slowed down the pacing of the story for me. You might have been able to get the same amount of description into the story, just throw it in as afterthoughts of the character. Some of that might help to keep the pacing and quick witty feeling of the narrative the same, and help avoid slowing down the story. (I think page 9 is the description that I'm thinking of, but it felt like there were more instances of that)

Overall I really enjoyed the story, great job!

P.S. As an aside, and a single silly thing, I just recently finished my third round to the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the penultimate novel is titled: Dust of Dreams, so that threw me just a little bit given the similarities of the titles.

JW

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Cons:

It almost felt too much like Hitchhikers, It might be that I've only read that book once, and it was a long while ago, but that was at the forefront of my mind when I was reading it, so that might be an incorrect feeling/assumption.

I wasn't trying to channel Douglas Adams specifically when I wrote this, but it's certainly the same genre of stream-of-thought bizarro stuff... I haven't read him in years, either.

P.S. As an aside, and a single silly thing, I just recently finished my third round to the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the penultimate novel is titled: Dust of Dreams, so that threw me just a little bit given the similarities of the titles.

Doh. Haven't read Malazan yet. I usually google the titles I give things just so this doesn't come up. Guess I missed this one.

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  • 5 weeks later...

i'm rather late on my feedback for this, but I wanted to chime in with my thoughts as well (see, I'm really being selfish by doing thing).

I agree with most of what others wrote, and will try not to rehash too much. Overall I found the narrator (and his voice) amusing, but potentially over-the-top. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, since without it some of the stuff he thinks is rather disturbing, but it is a potential drawback. Along the same lines, I'll just mention the saying that "brevity is the soul of wit" and just leave it at that.

The biggest negative I noticed is clarity. I thought it started off well in this regard, setting a decent scene by interspersing information with action, but as the piece went on, I found some places that the progress became confusing. For instance, the transition from cells to frozen maze seemed a little sudden. The rest of my issues I think would be resolved with another few rounds of editing.

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