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2013-07-08 - TheSadDragon - A Missing Soul - Chapter 1 and 2


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Hello All,

It's great to be back and started with the writing again.

This is the first two chapters of my Steampunk-noir story. It's 5400 words (not counting the chapter titles). So if it's a bit on the long side, you can always skip chapter 2 (seems the two chapters grew with 500 words after I went through em again -- sorry about that).

Looking forward to reading your feedback!




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I've only had time to read chapter one and will read chapter 2 later. First off, I'm somewhat new to critics and novel writing so feel free to take my opinions lightly.


I like how the story opened up but felt like the main character was missing a lot of back story. I found it difficult to bond with him and didn't know what type of person he really was. It sounds like he's an ex detective but again it's not all there.


I also liked the names of all the characters and felt like they blended together very well for setting you put them in. The city name sounds a bit too convenient and simple and kinda made me laugh to know that there was a city called Steamcity.


The scene when the main character rushed in to feed the dog had me on a bit of an edge but was let down because he just went in to feed Cogs. This part should have a stronger reason for him needing to rush in like that or it should mellowed down to where he remembers he needs to feed Cogs and finds the animal near the bowl.


 I liked the weapons the main character has but the description was off and just not there. All I could picture was a cylinder with some carvings on it. Normally people can imagine what a gun looks like quite easy but a broader description is needed when describing fantasy weapons such as trigger system what it looks like in more detail.


Overall I really like it minus the grammer and word issues in some places. I'll let you know how chapter 2 is like.

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I'm afraid I'm going to be echoing Tracer a bit. Especially with the "I'll read Chapter Two later" bit.


Names work, Cog doesn't. Steamtown feels a bit cheap. Grammar is frustrating. Sentences and paragraphs are painfully long. Want more imagery of the gun.


But the thing that stands out to me is how much it feels like a Dresden Files copycat. The first line hit me and I had to check that it wasn't Jim Butcher. And as it stands, that's going to be your biggest challenge with the story. Dresden Files + steampunk + Harry Potter (elves, changelings? I'm not a regular steampunk reader, but that doesn't seem to be par for the course) =/= success. You've got to stand out in some way and I'm just not seeing it. 


On the bright side, there's also a bit of a Turner & Hooch feel which almost completely redeems it.

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But the thing that stands out to me is how much it feels like a Dresden Files copycat. The first line hit me and I had to check that it wasn't Jim Butcher. And as it stands, that's going to be your biggest challenge with the story.


Could you please elaborate what exactly about the story made you make this connection. :)



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Welcome back!


I liked the idea of this, because I do like the magical/detective crossover.  That said, this has been done before, and very succesfully, by Jim Butcher.  However, I felt more of a similarity to the "Garret Files" by Glen Cook--which is also a sort of steampunk setting with elves, trolls, and humans all living together.  However, this didn't have quite enough new content to keep me interested through both chapters.  One missing girl, an odd gun, a dog, and stopped clocks could just as easily fit in a regular detective novel as in a fantasy one.  You need something else in the background to tell us why it's an elf investigating and not a native of New York or Chicago.


I think also what drew me out was the language.  You've said before that English isn't your native language.  I congratulate you on writing in a second language, then!  That said, you will have a problem getting to the English speaking market (or even an agent) without writing flawless English.  This isn't.  In fact, it was hard enough for me to follow that I ended up paying more attention to the writing than the story.  You might look into an alpha reader/editor who is fluent in English to fix any grammar or stylistic differences.


Some things I noticed:

First, Ed's voice isn't always consistent.  You haven't quite got the hard-boiled detective, and you don't quite have an airy elven voice.  He's also, as the others said, missing some of his backstory.


Second, there were some language problems:

"Mr. Henley, to whom do we owe this pleasure?"  (to what...)
"toasted bread" = toast


Last, there were a lot of awkward, past-tense sentences:
"looked like a likely candidate of being a changeling"
"fixed me with his eyes, giving him a somewhat hawk like appearance"
"Moments later I could hear the muffled sounds of people moving towards the door leading out of the apartment and a few seconds later I could heard the door closed shut."


You writing comes across as formal, stilted, and passive tense.  Not sure if it's a translation thing, but it comes across as hard to read.  It lacks the spice of really good phrasing.


You might try getting rid of all the "have" "had" and "did" words you can find.  You also need some more commas in strategic places to get the right meaning of your words across.

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Interesting, it’s been a while since I’ve read a ‘hard-boiled’ detective story. Like jParker I got stuck on this on the first paragraph, though I thought first of Garrett, PI (by Glen Cook) rather than Harry Dresden. And it strikes me that I’ve said this before, when you posted chapter one of “The Lady and the Fool” a year ago. It’s nice to see you take a second shot at Eodral, though so far I haven’t seen anything truly special yet.


As far as I’ve seen so far there are two major hurdles that get in the way of the story.


Rough language: It’s hard writing in English when that isn’t your first language and unfortunately that shines through here quite a lot. Mandamon has already said plenty on the subject so I won’t belabour the point.


Tropes: The hard-boiled detective genre has a lot of tropes and you’re hitting a lot of them right from the start. Beautiful woman? Check (usually the woman’s is the client). Mob connection? Check. Snooping neighbour? Check. Since it’s a fantasy setting I’m just waiting for Eodral to announce his distrust of horses.


To get a better handle on the tropes of the genre I suggest reading some fantasy detective novels, if you haven’t already, and to take a good look at what you’re doing and what they have done.


My suggestions:


  • Garrett, PI series by Glen Cook.
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
  • Eddie LaCrosse books by Alex Bledsoe.


The important question is how you can make yourself stand out from these well-established examples. These books are good reads and they can show you the kind of things that have been done before a lot better than us telling you about them.

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Alright, I've finished chapter 2 and more or less it's like chapter 1 in that I was waiting for something big to happen or a plot twist to take place but it seemed like there was too much information with how he was conducting his search. In chapter 2 I really wanted to bond with this character but his personality type was lacking as well and I wasn't able to get a good sense of who he is.


Also a couple of things stood out in chapter 2 that didn't fit with the genre. The wording you used to describe a nightclub and diner in this story took me out of it. I immediately thought of the diner I drive by on certain days and it didn't feel like it belonged in this world. A tavern, brothel, card-house, Inn, Villa, and things of that nature would have worked a lot better.


I also didn't know that English was your second language. I think you did quite well as I've never seen someone write this well in their second language. It does have grammatical errors but those aren't too hard to fix. 


I've also never read The Dresden Files or any of those books so I can't compare how yours is written in comparison to those but overall it wasn't a bad read.


Keep up the good work and am looking forward to chapters 3-4.

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I'll agree with everyone else on my two main issues:

* Grammar : not only did the various errors draw my reading to a crawl, but at some point I even started to question your words when they were right. When a reader doesn't trust a writer anymore, strange things can happen.

* Setting : at some time, I even wondered if the dog would start talking and tell us he was a dead sorcerer. If you want to go in the same vein as Butcher, you'd better have something really cool to show and show it really early.


Aside from that, the voice at the beginning was strong enough to engage me and I thought you added some nice touches in the worldbuilding (like the mistbarrels).

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I note from what other's have said that you are not writing in your first language, so what you have achieved is quite something, then again, as another said, you will be judged by the standard you are aiming at, so I've commented accordingly.


At the end of page one, I am engaged. The writing style is good. Just enough description to paint the picture, but moving quickly, giving me enough background to hold my interest and explain what’s happening. As other's have said, it’s not an unusual set-up, we’ve seen it before frequently on screen and in fiction, but if the style is good enough then I have no problem with the theme at all. So far, I have a clear image, a tense situation, the right amount of background and the urge to keep reading. One observation though, we’ve got black soot and a mistbarrel – in the back of my head I'm wondering if this is Mistborn FanFic.


The word ‘seeker’ instantly makes me think of Harry Potter and Quidditch, I wonder if there’s another title that could be used for what he does?


Same for me, Steamtown seems very ‘on the nose’ as a place name given that it is a Steampunk story. I would suggest something a bit less direct, although as a I read on I think that this is aimed at YA?


‘...between a rock and a hard place...’ cliché


'Henley turn [turned] and started walking towards the door. As he opened the door he turned and looked back...’ There is turn x2 and door x2 very close together, sounds clumsy.


Lack of comma use in general.


Good section here, I like the way you casually reveal that he is an elf, and that there are merfolk (however again very like Harry Potter).


The section with the dog is quite cute, but it took me out of the story. We’ve just gained some momentum from the initial scene of Henley’s visit, but the tension is suddenly dissipated. I would have thought Treeborn (a very literal name for an elf) would be bursting to look in the envelope or, if he doesn’t want to, then we should hear about his trepidation / reluctance.


‘...to fetch the envelope that Henley had left me on the night stand and see what this was all about. So after fetching the envelope I got a cup of tea and some toasted bread from...’ The repetition is really unnecessary. And ‘toasted bread’ is toast, surely!


‘...time is always crucial in missing person cases and[,] going by the papers I had gotten[,] enough time had already been wasted.’ I think it would be worth looking at comma use which is something I think is important. It stood out for me in various places up to this point, but none more so than the second example in this sentence, where it is harder to read without the natural pause that the comma gives you, also separating out different phrases, in this case the qualification about the papers.


The description section on Page 7 has an awful lot of streets and pipes and seeping, it sounds a bit cluttered.


‘She used to be a singer...’ Does he know she’s dead? If she’s still alive presumably, she is still a singer.


‘...the [F]estival of the [W]inds...’ Capitals because it’s a name


‘...when me and Ehrik...’ Ehrik and I, unless she is rather common of speech, which I don’t get from the rest of her dialogue

‘...have heard em.’ Surely she is properly spoken and would say ‘them’


‘I know 'cause [because] I had...’ the rest of her speech is quite proper, I don’t think a contraction sounds right here.

‘when they where [were]...’


Good ending to Chapter 2, I'm definitely intrigued and want to find out what is happening, so looking forward to the future chapters. I found your style very readable and enjoyable, and I think that you write well; what really slowed me down were the frequent grammatical and spelling errors. Do you use MS Word, or equivalent? I really would recommend switching on spelling and grammar check. You don’t have to accept all the grammar suggestions, but it would make your writing tidier. If the simple errors had been fixed in these first two chapters I would have ripped through it really quickly, but as it was I found myself interrupted by these glitches.


The subject itself seemed to me to be aimed at a younger audience. There’s nothing terribly dark, despite the fact that the protagonist was threatened with a weapon by a gangster, and a woman has disappeared. The noir style is enjoyable, but the feeling is more of a mystery than a thriller, so far anyway.

Edited by Robinski
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