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August 27- Trizee- The Winter Wars- Prologue


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I hereby present the prologue of my novel The Winter Wars, the first novel in a trilogy I like to call A Clash of Beings (with books two and three tentatively named Light's Champion and A Hope for Stone). In addition to the prologue, I've already finished chapters 1 and 2, and am currently working on chapter three.

Now go ahead and tell me how absolutely horrible it is!

Edited by Trizee
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An enjoyable prologue, but to be honest it doesn’t really stand out. It feels familiar, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is something to keep in mind. The characters are fine, but so far the setting seems fairly generic, though I haven’t seen jungles much (which is good) and I hope to see more of it. There is action in this chapter and Link has a definite goal, which I like, but there are some issues with the prose itself that hindered my enjoyment.

Zelda: I grew up with the Legend of Zelda games, so I can’t see the name Link without immediately thinking about a certain protagonist wearing a green tunic and hat. I’m hearing the theme music in my head while typing this and I don’t think I’m the only one with these associations. Truthfully it detracts from your main character since I can’t help seeing the Link I’m familiar with. If you’re not too attached to the name I suggest changing it.

Telling: On the first page, in the paragraph starting with “Link stumbled to his feet”, you have Link think of his ambush plans, telling the reader what the rest of the chapter is going to be about. This is blunt and unnecessary since we’re going to see it first hand in a couple of pages. The first dialogue between Link and Bern is a better introduction to the plot and the reader is smart enough to read between the lines when a group of mercenaries is tracking a king.

Barrage: “Bern smiled at Link’s barrage of questions”. There were only two questions, which hardly constitutes a barrage. Also, why does Bern smile as if humouring a small child? Link is the leader, he’s expected to ask questions.

Wish-washy: There are many times when things ‘seem’ to be, or it’s ‘some kind of’ or ‘sort of’ item. Take “He was wearing some kind of robes, all wrapped about him, and he had a sort of cloth hat on his head.”

This can be told in a far more direct fashion, which strengthens the prose: “He wore robes, all wrapped about him, with a cloth hat on his head.”

Now, I’m not saying this sentence is the way to go, but it makes Bern sound more sure of himself.

Or, “The dauntehrs in this area seemed to be exceptionally large”. They didn’t seem to be large, they were large.

Had/Was –ing: Truthfully this was the thing that bothered me most when reading the chapter. You’re overusing the words ‘had’ and ‘was’. It’s not strictly speaking passive voice, but it does lend a very strong passive feeling to the text. I believe you can remove most cases of the word ‘had’ and not lose any of the meaning. It also makes the text stronger. Right now a lot of sentences are padded, which removes some of the pacing.

One of the worst examples is when you use ‘had had’.

The same thing with was, and in particular in the form of was ‘verb’-ing.

Example: “The presence of the holy man was making him wonder if he would live to regret the decision he had made that night.”

Instead try something like: “The presence of the holy man made him wonder if he would live to regret the decision he made that night.”

Small nitpick: “Link rose, stretching”. Wasn’t he already up and about?

Gem swords: The presence of gem swords feels off. To make swords out of precious stones means these are more prevalent in the world than metal and iron, otherwise, why make weapons out of them? It also doesn’t feel right that one gem sword can so easily cut through other gem swords of ‘lesser quality’.

I’m also not sure about the four types of crystal and the surety that there are only four. In the real world there are many more types than that, which, to me, defines what’s real. Unless the world you created is significantly different, but I haven’t seen enough signs of that.

He himself: You use this turn of phrase a couple of times. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t care for it.

Punctuation: You’ve got some errors in your dialogue punctuation, such as missing commas or the comma on the wrong side of the quotation mark. The following website explains how dialogue is formatted and punctuated: http://theeditorsblog.net/2010/12/08/punctuation-in-dialogue/

Double: When the mercenaries are in ambush positions Link thinks the following: “The night he had stolen his weapon was the night that had led to this moment”. We’ve already been told this before, it’s not necessary to state it again.

Previous attempt: I didn’t like the section dealing with the previous attempt of taking the king’s life. It slows the pacing way down and serves no purpose other than to mention the ‘weapon’ both Link and the king are after. I’d suggest cutting this section down or to cut it and mention the ‘weapon’ elsewhere.

King’s cave: The king goes into a cave, accompanied by one man, in a jungle. Who knows what beasts lurk inside. I can’t believe his entourage would let him go inside without first checking things out.

Pitch black: It’s pitch black in the cave yet Link can still signal his men. How did he do that?

Ki Sain: It takes close to a minute to create a foot long energy nail. It feels like it’s too long a time.

Cobin: I got the picture that the mercenary band isn’t very large. Twenty, thirty, maybe forty men at maximum? Link states he only takes the best, yet as leader he’s not sure about the names of the men under his command?

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Asmodemon covered most of what I saw. I have a couple other things.

I had the same problem with "Link," when I first read the name. Hard not to imagine a different hero...

On both page 2 and 5, you say twice that the sword led to this situation. We don't need both hints.

On pg 9, you say Ki Sain 12 times in 2 paragraphs. If it's something important, find another word to describe it or use pronouns. I skimmed the paragraph because it felt like I was getting hit on the head.

...two more paragraphs and 6 more mentions of the same word and I still don't know what it is or what it looks like, but I know what your name for it is. Is it a sword? A knife? A long fingernail? Energy? Crystal? ...

The use of crystals seemed off to me too. I could only imagine the swords breaking every time they were used. Maybe give the four types of crystals different names to designate that they are special types of crystal. Explain why they are strong enough to make weapons out of or why you wouldn't just use metal. I'm willing to believe, but you have to give a plausible background, especially if you are using common names.

Ultimately, I don't really like Link. Since this is a prologue, he may not be the main character. If he is the main character, he seems to have no morals and no consience at all. I'd rather side with the king and the holy man. They seemed much more interesting.

Not a bad start, but I'd say this world needs a more dramatic entrance to catch my attention.

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Regarding the crystal swords, I assumed this was a metal-is-rare story, which I've generally liked, and that the crystal was the substitute of choice. I personally thought there was enough indication of a different/magical type of crystal when the story mentioned a growth of them in a cave, since crystals don't usually grow.

However, I do think the rules of the types of crystal blades could be set out sooner and do some good. The first I recall learning about it was a brief thought from Link that a blade capable of cutting through emerald would be powerful. However, the Ki Sain section overwhelmed any absorption of that concept, for me, so I was quite surprised when the king's emerald blade was able to shatter the quartz blades of the attackers. I figured that the ruby, sapphire, and emerald blades were progressively rarer, and maybe made better, but it didn't occur to me until it happened that there might be another effect involved. If the rules for this are made clearer earlier on, that would also help set up the tension when he is attacked by people with vastly inferior blades. Even Link only has a ruby blade.

Speaking of ruby blades, Link takes his out above the cave, and reference is made to how it caused a nice glow. Also, there is reference to seeing the jungle spread out underneath them while on the mountain. Together, these two things make me doubt that Link's men could hide from the king's guards all that well.

Why didn't Link help his men fight the king? In addition to that, why use such poor tactics? If the king was already near the ground without his sword drawn, just tackle the man and execute him. (Now I've got Austin Powers scenes in my head. Scott: "I have a gun in my room, you give me five seconds, I'll get it, I'll come back down here, BOOM.")

Also near there, when Link indicated to his men to take the king, you wrote that he "nodded to his men, sliding the sharp end of his blade across his throat." It took me a little bit to figure out that you meant he indicated he wanted them dead, not that he had slit someone else's (or his own) throat.

I did appreciate how Link spun the fact that he was hanging back in the fight, even though I don't think that's the smartest thing to do. In fact, if Link was smart at all, he would have waited until the king was occupied (possibly with his sword stuck in somebody's body) and snuck around to get the really powerful sword.

Other than the bit about the crystal blades, I would echo almost everything Asmodemon said as well. Pretty much everything he wrote occurred to me while I read as well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We've had another submission a few months ago where gem swords were used. I'll tell you there pretty much what I said last time : gems are useless as weapons.

They might be among the hardest substances known, but they're usually very brittle. A well placed hit with a rock (or most metals) can cleave a crystal or shatter it.

About the hardness scale : diamond is harder than sapphire/ruby (which are the same despite the different colors) which are harder than emerald which is harder than quartz. The king should have a sapphire or ruby sword, not an emerald one.

Two other crystal-related things to mention :

* The largest diamond ever found weighted 600g. In volume, that's about a third of a liter, so it's pretty small. You're never going to be able to find a single crystal large enough to manufacture a sword. At best, you'll find smaller crystal assembled together, but that would add to the brittleness of the weapon

* There is no way cutting a crystal in a curve is easier than going in a straight line. Crystals are arranged by planes, so it's easier to go along a plane than try to cut through the planes. Also, if you follow the natural shapes of the crystals, you're going to end up with swords which have no sharp edge. Making a sharp edge where one isn't there is going to turn your sword into something even more fragile. Look on the web for an image of a quartz crystal and you'll see what I mean; they're naturally shaped as rods.

Oh yes, and crystals of these types don't grow. They're formed deep inside the earth and only come to the surface through earthquakes or volcanoes. You won't find any wandering through a cave and if such a cave existed, it would need to be somewhere with large mountains.

Did-I mention I was a crystallographer?

Some questions about the story now :

* If the ruby blades are so much better than the quartz ones, they must be much more valuable. When Link's men killed the king's guards, they should have taken the guards swords - if only for the money. For those going inside the cave, getting their hands on better equipment meant much better chances of survival when going against the king who had a much better weapon than their standard-issue quartz blades.

* I agree Link was pretty useless. Why didn't he jump on the diamond blade while the king was fighting his men and finished him?

* The timing described in the beginning seems off. If the king left 15 minutes ago and the scouts reported it, Bern went to see and came back, they must be really close to the king's route. Being that close means more chances for Link's group to be spotted.

* A sword isn't the ultimate weapon. As you showed yourself, someone with a superior blade can still be beaten, if only with enough numbers. A king shouldn't be on the frontline anyway.

* During the combat, when the king cuts down his opponents weapons, I would expect the resulting shards to fly in the air and still pose a danger to him, yet it seems like they only fall to the ground harmlessly.

I agree there are repetitions you should cut out (If I see "Ki Sain" one more time...) and the flashback kind of threw me off the story. Either put it in the beginning or remove it.

The description of the rainforest seemed a bit too much here. I thought "here's the obligatory landscape description". There was not much description up until now (which I'm fine with), so the contrast between the two was difficult for me.

Now, I'm going to read chapter 1...

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I'll try to add to what's already been said...

One thing that bothered me was the fact that this was such an easy ambush. Considering the situation and the easily ambushable surroundings, you'd think he would prepare for it more and not allow himself to be taken so easily.

There is a half-page description of the dauntehr, but nobody reacts to it in any way. I figure people would react to any sort of wild animal. If these people were in our world and they randomly ran into a bear, they would react, it would react. Reactions would be going on.

Did somebody die from an arrow wound to the shoulder?

In addition to pleasing crystallographers, you have to think of what type of weapons would have evolved in this world. I, like those before me, assume there is no metal (or it's so rare that it is unusable). So, if crystal is your best bet for an edged weapon, and everyone knows that one level of crystal can easily defeat another, would weaponry ever have evolved into swords? As soon as I saw the effect the king's sword had, all I could think was why they had swords at all instead of, I don't know, throwing knives or something.

I disagree with Link's decision to leave archers behind. This ties back to the assassination being way too easy. I mean, Link can literally stand back and watch, that's how easy it was.

I think it was a very solid beginning. I'd focus on what is going on in the prologue and not bother talking about the past as much (except for a couple hints to tie things together, if needed, of course). The assassination attempt and the mystery behind the sword and magic, I think, are enough to keep the reader interested. I didn't dislike Link (except for the Zelda thing) but I didn't agree with two of his decisions (leaving the archers behind and not helping kill the king) and that makes me think he's a bad leader. But, that's okay because maybe he's supposed to be a bad leader. It's only the prologue.

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I, like those before me, assume there is no metal (or it's so rare that it is unusable).

I didn't assume there was no metal in this world. There is obviously at least one metal in some quantity (Sapphire and Ruby are Aluminum oxides). Maybe the people there have not discovered how to process it yet. That story in itself (people discovering metals and how to turn them into weapons) could be fascinating.

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I didn't assume there was no metal in this world. There is obviously at least one metal in some quantity (Sapphire and Ruby are Aluminum oxides). Maybe the people there have not discovered how to process it yet. That story in itself (people discovering metals and how to turn them into weapons) could be fascinating.

I actually did intend that there be no metal in the world. I didn't know that shapphire and ruby need aluminum, but that doesn't really matter, since the crystals in my world aren't the same as their real world counterparts.

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That's odd that you are writing in a world without metal, because that's one of the premises of my story, except that metal comes to the world through meteorites and such (In such quantities that it is rare, but not impossible to acquire).

How do you handle such things like shaping of stone, or buildings? Is everything made of stone or wood, and if so how inhibited is progress by the lack of metal? Are they stone age people or have they advanced past this using crystal or other materials.

Just another point, if you're using a resource that functions in every way like metal, and essentially replaces it in society, then it probably isn't pulling it's weight as a building block of the world. There is a rule about having something novel for novelties sake. Just because you can do something different, it has to has a reason beyond being different.

Also, I answered these questions in my own work by integrating the lack of metal into the magic system, and making it an integral part of my society/magic system. I gave the world a reason for not having metal, and fitted that in with the mythology of the world itself.

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