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7/14/2013 - Turos - Gourd-Smasher (V)


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After reading the prologue and the first chapter I’ve got the following points.


Favourite hand: The first sentence really threw me for a loop. The mention that Diro’s favourite hand was cut off really made me pause – not something you want in a first sentence. I’ve heard of a dominant hand, but never seen anyone refer to a hand as ‘favourite’.  


Start: The first part of the prologue has some good visuals, like the skycraft falling on Diro, and the molten fire falling from the sky. Unfortunately it is bloated by confusing sections: did time pass fast or slow? It can’t be both. His memories are scattered but come back in flashes in one sentence. What’s the point of him not remembering then? The roundabout way of going about telling us Diro lost his arm didn’t really hook me either. I’d start with the second paragraph (minus the first sentence of that paragraph) of having the ship fall on Diro – that’s an attention grabber.


Weird sentences: There are a lot of examples of overly long, overly complex sentences that only serve to confuse me.

  • Awkward and passive: “He would have cried at that thought had he the ability in this floating void his mind now found vacancy within.”
  • Awkward structure: “The orb indicating the Gourd-Smasher had turned belly up and the crystal that had given off a powerful emerald light now shone nothing at all.”
  • Run-on sentence: “The deep darkness of a sky filled with stars that have been blanked out by the bright scar of red light bursting from the mountain fortress cast an eery silence from the vantage of the not-too-distant village that had once been known as Respid.”   


POV shifts:  I wasn’t sure if you were writing in third person omniscient or third person limited with POV errors. The first chapter starts with a paragraph in Fistrid’s POV, then the next paragraph is Maren’s. You keep shifting it up through their sections. This should be tightened up. Unless you are writing third person omniscient. I’m not a fan of it and it is out of style(for a good reason, in my opinion).  


Aftermaths, a passive feel: You have  a lot of references in both chapters to rather interesting things, but we’re never actually there when the interesting things happen. For instance, Diro’s perspectives are all about looking back at what has happened since he’s in some kind of limbo. To me that makes me feel like you’re skipping the actual interesting parts (the attack, breaching the mountain, things going south, the collision with the other ship) for recollections of those events during quieter moments after. We’re told what happened, but we’re never actually shown those events, which are what I would have liked to see. I’d like to have been there with those characters. It was too bad you put the focus elsewhere, that’s like taking the easy way out.


Had: I counted close to a hundred instances of the word ‘had’. Now it’s a valid word, but its use turns the pacing down. Instead of telling what ‘had’ happened, show what happens.


Speaking frankly: Maren asks permission to speak freely after she had already asked him if he had enough sleep. Seems like she was already speaking frankly.


Info-dump: First chapter, Diro’s perspective, we’re treated to a lot of background information, such as how his ship got its name. At this point of the story, why should we care? The ship is gone anyway.


You also describe the original plan that went south in the prologue. We’ve already seen the aftermath, why should we care about what led up to it and what their intentions were after the fact?


The fact that Diro lost his son in the war isn’t particularly interesting at this point either. In fact, that whole section of Diro doesn’t advance the plot in any meaningful sense. It fills in some blanks left by the prologue which, at this point, don’t really matter anyway.


Conclusion: Overall you could have some interesting things here, the sky ships, the opening battle, demons from the volcano, but it’s hampered by everything being an aftermath. We’re always told what happened rather than shown. I could like the characters when I get to know them better, though so far they aren’t really memorable yet.

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Asmodemon caught most of what I did, so I'll try not to repeat.  Mostly I was confused throughout this, by the lack of description, the awkward and passive sentences, and the innumerable "hads"


I read the first paragraph twice to make sense of it, and was even more confused after the first page, almost enough to stop reading.  I think

because first section all happens in white-room.  There's no desription of where or what Diro is.


pg 3:  Wait--Diro was a sea captain first?  Then when you tell me about ships, now you're

always going to have to clarify sky- or sea-ships.


You're throwing out made-up names with no indication of what they are, and most seem not to matter anyway.

yet you explain exactly how an Ibuin fruit works...


How does a metal skull fly?  Is it even aerodynamic?  Are they using rocket boosters here, or hot air and fabric? 


pg 7:  At chapter 1, I am more confused than when I started reading.  The 3rd omniscient really threw me.  I agree with Asmodemon that you should go with 3rd limited for a first book.

Also, is his name Fistrid, or Fist?  Were they the ones with the flying skull?  I'm confused as to which side they're on.

pg 11: Why was Diro trying to break through rock to get into a volcano?  That makes no sense as to why it was the only option without some more explanation.  Also, now you're talking about sea ships again.  Which is it?


pg 12: now you finally say the volcano is some portal to the demon world and that's where the skull sky ship came from.  Tell the reader this in the first page of the prologue.


pg 10 to 14 is an infodump explaining some of the things I've been completely confused about the whole time.  It's unlikely I would have read this far to understand, and a 4-page infodump is not the place to explain.  These tidbits need to be at the beginning of the book, as you bring in new ideas and words, to help the reader understand as he reads.


I'd say take a step back, look at exactly where you want to go with this story, and start from the beginning, building up characters and descriptions of the new world you want to show us.

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Thanks for the feedback and taking the time to read through it all despite the difficulty. I suppose a lot of my problems come from trying out 'discovery writing' whereas I have always outlined everything before writing even a single scene. My problem with outlining is I get so focused on all of the information I have compiled that I feel I can't even write the story without mixing things up.


Perhaps I should try to balance it out, outlining the bare scratchings of the whole plot, then handle things scene to scene, outlining followed by writing.


I have to admit I didn't realize how much confusion and lack of structure my story contains, so I thank you both for helping me to see these issues.




On that note, how do you organize what you are planning to write? How much do you know about how the story will turn out and all of the intricacies between? Do you thoroughly map out your character's traits and personalities before beginning, or do you let your actual writing process do most of the work revealing them to you?

Edited by Turos Stoneward
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On that note, how do you organize what you are planning to write? How much do you know about how the story will turn out and all of the intricacies between? Do you thoroughly map out your character's traits and personalities before beginning, or do you let your actual writing process do most of the work revealing them to you?


I've found I'm very much an outliner.  If you listen to the WE episodes where Mary tells how she outlines, I do it almost exactly the same way (by coincidence).  I know all the main points of the story before I begin to write.  That's not to say they stay the same--I let the discovery process while I'm writing dictate what "seems more awesome."  But the main storyline and likely the end will be similar to my outline.


I outline in bullet points, writing about 9-12 pages for a 70-100k book.  Then I translate at least some of it to Scene / Sequel format to get a feeeling for what the conflicts and challenges are.


In my later writing, I've started mapping out characters as well.  Even if I don't have a complete arc, I know what their personality traits are.  I've found this helps to speed the writing process along--for example, I know if I have someone who would be reluctant to take action, or someone who is really over excited about doing things, or a happy person or a sad person.  That then dictates some of how each scene will go, depending on the POV.


This is how I do it.  This may not work for you.  Try to write different ways and see which brings out the best story for you.

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I hope that I'm not repeating too much what the others have said, or that I'm at least giving a slightly different slant, I don't like reading the other comments before I write my own, so this is a cut-and-paste job.



I'm not keen on the title. A gourd is not a very impressive thing to be able to smash. As a name for a skycraft it seems like an ironic insult. I appreciate that it’s just a working title though, but then the same comment applies to the name of the ship, I think.


Page 1: For me the first page has some strong imagery, there is action and peril, and it’s interesting enough that I want to read on. I was a bit distracted by some of the grammatical issues, at least one typo, etc. but nothing that would stop me reading on.


Page 2: What is a ‘murn’? We’ve got murns, riarks and humans, and at this point, we don’t understand much about the relationships between them, other than who’s fighting with and against whom. Later evridins are introduced, and again the relationship isn’t clear.


The captain seems to be relying on hope and doesn’t have a back-up plan to cover more than one option. He doesn’t seem all that well prepared for the mission.


Some of the phrasing doesn’t sound right to me. At this point I'm thinking as much about the writing as the content. I think the story would benefit greatly from some polishing of the writing. Grammar checking in Word (etc.) can be annoying, but it usually does have a point to make.


Page 3: With the flash to Diro in his thoughts about Rin (can he be having these thoughts if his mind is vacant?) I'm getting disoriented, are we are two time frames, or are these linear events with disconnects?


Page 4: ‘The silence had plenty of reason to be.’ To be what?


‘He saw as the murnish skycraft hammered its way into the volcano.’ Saw what? ‘watched’?


Page 5: it’s’ is not possessive, but a contraction of ‘it is’ – sorry, but that’s a hobby-horse of mine.


So riarks are demons? I think the reader should learn this earlier.


‘In a wave that resembled a furious scream of failure,’ is it an explosion? I thought the image was unclear because of the comparison to a scream.


‘The stranger's shoulder's bent into a frown.’ I'm not sure how that works as an image, also ‘shoulders’ (no apostrophe).


By the end of the prologue, I am full of questions. There are lots of big, geological images, fire and brimstone, etc. which is good. There are also some potentially interesting characters. I want to know about the stranger, so I'm geared up to keep reading. The grammar is quite distracting in places and definitely needs to be polished/corrected. There is also some tense confusion in here and there.


Page 6: I am wondering why is Firstrid unaware that Gourd-smasher took out the riark ship, did no one other than the stranger see it happening, or deduce from the relationship of the wreckage what had happened, or did the lava conceal the remains? I don’t think it’s clear.


What is the relationship between his name (Fistrid) and his title (General Fist)?


Page 7: ‘Can not’ is one word.


An example of one phrasing issue is ‘...a part of his mind felt relieved for an excuse...’ rather to have an excuse.


Page 8: "Sir? I am well rested." She’s making the same mistake she pointed out to him, is she not?


‘sky captain’ makes me think of the film ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’.


Page 9: Phrasing, ‘A suiting task...’ suitable, surely.


Page 10: So I get the name of the ship now, but my earlier comment stands.


Why would they wait so long to respond if this Iron Devil had been for two days towards Grister City? Also, the main definition of ‘veer’ is to change direction suddenly, so I don’t think a vessel could spend two days veering.


Page 12: What does the reference to ‘your people’ mean? What does Diro have against society, are they not his people too, as the son makes out?


Phrasing: Why is the statue on the estate waiting?


For someone in such a big rush, there is a lot of description of surroundings as she hurries along. We know that she is easily distracted, apparently, but the description waters down the supposed pace of this section.


Page 13: ‘It was silly how much they focused on the role,’ who is they?


What about the king?



Overall, I think there is quite a bit to be positive about. I like the scale of the ideas and the imagery. At the end of Chapter One, we have three or four main characters in Maren, Fistrid and the stranger, although Diro seems still to exist, and I'm interested to find out more about them.


The spelling and grammar errors are quite distracting. There is a spelling error on every page, I think, and it’s easily avoided by using a spellchecker, even if it’s only just before submission. As I mentioned, I think some of the phrasing needs revision or clarity. I think some of the descriptions could be more effective and shorter at the same time.


We still don’t know how humans relate to murnish, and I don’t think it’s entirely clear what effect the riarks have had on the world. How big is the world, are there many nations preparing or guarding against another invasion?


Looking forward to seeing how it goes.



In terms of your question about organisation, I think everyone is both a discover writer and an outliner, everyone needs to know where they are going to some degree, even it is a single sentence for an idea, that is still the most basic outline. Then again, even the most ardent outliner has to stop and will in the gaps and 'discover' the how the events and arcs they have set down come to pass.


I tend to have a spine for the story, and the starting traits of the characters and an idea of how they will react, then hit them with the events and see what happens. Either they will react predictably based on their characteristics, or the events will change them. Hopefully it's the latter, otherwise it probably won't be as interesting a story as it could, or should, be.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm late, and as usual Asmodemon and Mandamon have very good points to make.


My main concern in addition to their points has to do with confusion; there are too many places where I have questions about the story, and they aren't the sort of questions that lead to keeping someone reading.  Instead, they're the sort that make me re-read a section, then try to puzzle something out.


Examples could include things like "The young human officer held Diro's eyes who stared back blankly."  Who stared back?  It could be the human or Diro, but either way the phrasing is odd.


Another was "it had really been more of a been a moment of frustration to the point of blind fury."  What had been?  We know others had said it was inspired, but we have no idea what happened at that point... and without knowing what had happened, knowing how people felt about it isn't really useful.  At least not in this circumstance.


An example of a good question is "who and what was that stranger on the mountain, and how could he zoom his sight in beyond normal abilities?"


Other things to critique, although some have glanced at by the others: 

* A break-in-break-out operation... if only the enemy does exactly what you want them to.  That's a real winner of a plan, and especially not one that you spend your most valuable ship on.  The text even says Diro had known that it was too good to be true.  In that case, is a back-up plan too much to ask?

* Apparently it was the same ship that he had previously, only now it can fly?  But when it was a sea ship, they had thruster controls?  Even though the pirate was defeating everyone with a wooden galleon that disguised some sort of metal lining?

* "Ramming speed" makes me want to throw a book.  What, exactly, is "ramming speed"?  Is it full speed?  if not, why not?  If so, why not just say "full speed"?  It makes little to no sense to ram at less than full speed, because you won't do as much damage.  It doesn't make sense to have a designated "more than full speed" in most cases, either, though you might be able to make a case for it.  "Full throttle" works well.  "Ramming procedure" is dry, but a better description of what to do.  "Ram them" is straightforward and doesn't get into the who speed thing, either.

* The next thing to make me throw a book is the son who died in the war his father didn't want to be part of, thus causing the father to join in the war after all.  It can be done well; in the middle of a 4-page exposition in the first chapter isn't the way.  Especially since at that point we don't really need to know why he joined; it seems irrelevant to his situation or the war situation in how it is presented.

Edited by cjhuitt
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