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20130701 -Robinski -The Tontine Inn By The Shore -Part 1of4 (DLSV)


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Hi All,

This is the first of four parts of a novella (by SFFWA standards) that runs to over 17,000 words. It (the novella) is the second part of a six story series, but the first to introduce the characters featured, so you're not missing anything.

As to genre, I'll admit to not being sure how to describe it exactly. I won't say anything more here other than that it has a loosely implied period.

I hope that you find something to enjoy in it, and I would very much welcome any comments that you have.

Many thanks.

Best, Robinski

Edited by Robinski
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I enjoyed this a lot.  The characterizations almost remind me of Swordspoint (which I just finished reading recently). I have to say I didn't really like the plot of Swordspoint, but I did like the style of writing.


Comments as I read through:

Your beginning doesn't really hook me.  It's a guy looking out over...nothing interesting.  I was, however, pulled back in by the "screech" at the beginning of the second paragraph, so...cut the first paragraph? (isn't that what we've heard time and again on Writing Excuses?)


Your prose is very poetic, and I get the sense of a regency or Georgian time period from it.  I'll reserve judgement until I read more, but it might be a little too adjective-heavy.


Blacklake seems composed entirely of scorn and greed to possess the Coach House Inn.  Strong character traits, but I would be careful to make sure it doesn't diminish his character to have only that one ambition, as it even overshadows his art.  But the fact that I'm talking this much about the character means I'm intrigued, so I'm of two minds on it.


This isn't the usual style I read, but I can definitely enjoy it.  The two points that nagged at me (as a mainstream SciFi/Fantasy reader) were the abundance of "flowery" prose (too many adjectives) and an almost melodramatic element to the characters--they are fixated on one thing.  But it's also a shorter piece, and that works more for this genre/timeframe, so I'm not sure whether it's a real issue, or if I'm just projecting my expectations into the piece.


So hopefully I haven't confused you needlessly.  Take what you will of the above.  I did enjoy it, and looking forward to more.

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Thank you very much for those comments, very helpful. You have me bang to rights on the flowery prose and adjectives. There are failings of mine that I am trying to work on, my excuse here is that this is an older piece, but I agree that I have probably not pruned enough in revising. I shall also consider cutting the first paragraph, or revising with a better hook.


The 'single-mindedness' of the characters is another good point - not something I've picked up to date, but I will certainly pay attention to that in revising down the line. The whole thing is written, so be prepared for some more adjectives!, but hopefully you'll find the pace quickening due to the adjectives thinning out a bit.


Thanks again!

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I was really intrigued by this. The setting's interesting, and well evoked by the style of prose. The writing is generally good, though I agree on it being adjective heavy - even an overdose of simple adjectives like colours can seem odd to read.


I found this very heavy on extended description and exposition of back story, with not much happening. It also felt a bit repetitive at times, descriptions, thoughts and even occasionally bits of dialogue repeating essentially the same information two or three ways in succession. This is partly a matter of personal taste, but it puts me off.


Once Sabine turned up things started to happen, and I started to feel more tension.


There were a couple of bits of dialogue that felt out of place. Sabine's first bit didn't seem like something anyone would actually say - when a character says 'as I'm sure you know' it normally equates to 'as I would never really say, but the author wants you to know'. I'm sure you can find a more subtle way to get her point across. Later on she used the phrase 'shut up', which felt very modern and out of place among all the rest of the elegant prose.


I'm interested in the characters - their passions and interests are out there and have me hooked - but they risk falling into cliches - the frustrated artist, the evil landowner, the femme fatale. Those are all figures that interest me, as long as there's something more to them as well, and I'll be interested to see how that pans out in the next part.


Looking forward to reading more.

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Very useful comments, thank you, my alpha reader has been telling me about the descriptions for some time - definitey guilty, but trying to mend my ways. No arguement about the dialog point as well, a fault I need to be better at catching.


The most helpful thing coming across to me is the characters to tending towards stereotype, I'm very glad that people seem to be finding them interesting to some degree, but it's probably not enough at the target level, must consult the relevant WE 'cast!


Thank you again - lots of good stuff to think about.

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I must concur with what the others have said, there are things here that might be leading to something interesting in the next parts, but this first part didn’t really do it for me.


Slow start: There’s no hook to the story. The first paragraph is overly long and descriptive and this trend continues all throughout the first section of Blacklake’s perspective. There’s a lot of background material and descriptions of surroundings, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. Case in point, Blacklake does nothing except stand in the courtyard for the first eight pages. He only talks to two people and the conversations are noticeable for how little the characters say and how much descriptions are put around the dialogue.


Style: The prose is bloated with adjectives, which makes the whole thing rather purple. I’m fine with a little flowery prose every now and then, but with so much of it, it really dampens the reading experience. The sentences are overly long and convoluted and you also use far too many commas. It slows the pacing way down.


Letter: The letter that Blacklake receives is a clear example of the above point. It’s so convoluted I had a hard time understanding what it said. It also made me think that nobody writes letters like that. That plays havoc on my suspension of disbelief.


Characters: I don’t really care for the characters so far. Blacklake is full of wrath, Peter is full of greed, Sabine is spiteful for little reason. Now I don’t necessarily need to read about likeable characters, but if you combine unlikeable characters with pages upon pages of background information and descriptions, with nothing happening, that’s not a good sign.


Tontine agreement: I liked the idea of the characters bound by the tontine agreement, it’s got a lot of potential for intrigue and I’m interested to see where you take it. A word of caution though concerning the definition for tontine at the start of the story. When I see such a dictionary definition I see it as being part of the world in the story. You mention Naples and France – this immediately makes me think that the story is also set on Earth (an implied promise you make to the reader), yet by the magic that’s being used it’s probably another world entirely.

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Fair comment, I do recognise most of these traits in my writing, but I think one needs to be told this stuff for it sink in, so thank you!


As far as commas go, well there are rules for those, not that I'm an expert (obvs).


Setting-wise it is Earth - none of the names are made up - surely doesn't need to be another world for 'magic' to make an appearance?


In relation to the characters, there are few likeable ones agreed, and they are peripheral, that was a conscious decision (risk) - a bit of a challenge that I set myself because of the other writing that I had done at the time (the first draft was completed in 2008).


I do appreciate your comments, thank you.

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