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2nd September 2013 - Guru Coyote - No Thing Harder Than Bone

Guru Coyote

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Hey :)


This is a short story I'm actively working on, so it may still have some rough edges editing-wise. What I am looking for is your impressions / comments as reader.


The theme for the collection this will go into is "New Myths" and so the 'myth' part should be central. 

I'd love to hear any comments, suggestions etc. Did the myth come across? Does the story have a satisfying conclusion for you? Would you like more detail on some things or less on others?


(´Sidenote: as it stands here, the story should be read as a stand-alone short story, but a different version of it will be part of a much larger work I am writing)


Enjoy, and looking forward to your thoughts!

Edited by Guru Coyote
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This was good--I had trouble finding critiques, and most of them are questions about the world, which might be answered if there is more to this...


pg 11: the description of running through the archive isn't clear.  At first I thought Eiji was still in the cell and had locked the door. 

Now the questions.  I'm glad you say this will be part of a larger work, because I'm ready to read chapter 2.  If your question of myth refers to the Quatlmander, then yes, that came across.


As to satisfaction and conclusions...
Why does Bazaarat smell of rot and decay?  Is it because it's in the desert?  Also, it might be good to qualify what is harder than bone. Is brick harder?  Is clay harder?  Baked clay vs. soft clay?  You mention wood, but the city seems to be in a dry plain.  Do they even have enough wood/bamboo/paper to build a city?

I would think in this environment, they might have to build out of clay and sand, if they want to only have things softer than bone.
Are utensils and bowls all made out of wood as well? Do they actually use bone as a building product?  If so, they could have bone bowls and cups--probably easier to shape with a shortage of wood.

Why is the king (or father to the princess at least) roaming outside the city with his daughter and trying to steal a book?  Why would the royalty need to steal something that belongs to the city?  This could easily be overlooked now if this was part of a larger book, but if this is to stand alone, you might need a one-line explanation from Eiji.

You also don't address anything about Andrew's magic and what he did in Ohtek lands.  Again, not a problem in a larger book, but here, that is what defines him (he is an outcast from the city because of it) yet you say little about it, and he never uses his powers even though that's the point of him coming to town.  Not a deal-breaker by any means, but I do want to know more to be satisfied.

It does have a nice conclusion, but begs for more to come.  I'm ready to read more!

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It took me some time to get into the story.  I think you could cut the whole first section and not lose much from the story; perhaps a bit would need to be added back where it needs to be known.


The history hinted at with Bert confused me.


I'd agree with Mandamon that the blocking could be improved for the flight through the archives.  I also wonder what caused the librarian to become overwhelmed -- the hint of smells implies Eiji did something to her, but it wasn't clear what.


The reveal of the existence of animal-sign pets wasn't timed well for a short story.  To properly set up the reveal at the end, the fact that these exist should be established nearer the beginning of the story.


Also, overall I found the ending anticlimactic.  I think that is because Andrew wasn't the acting agent for resolution, though he had been set up as the focus of the story by the beginning.  To fix this, either Andrew would have to become active in his own salvation at the end -- difficult but not impossible with the parameters you set up in the story -- or the focus of the story needs to shift to Eiji, kind of like Sherlock Holmes was the focus of stories that followed Watson's POV.  For the latter, the story would have to start with Eiji being introduced into it, I think, and not with setting up Andrew's problems.

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Mandamon and cjhuitt, thank you very much for that feedback. Very helpful questions raised indeed.

I feel tempted to answer them right here and now, but that's not the way an author should :) 


I am working on a larger work, but have no idea when anything is ready. My goal for "No Thing Harder Than Bone" is for it to be a stand-alone short story of max 10k words - for now. I do have another story ready that is also part of the bigger work, but it does not explain much of the questions raised with this one. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi, I enjoyed the story, but I have some comments and issues. Also, I agreed with some of the other comments. I think the ending implies that this is the first chapter (or two) in a much larger work - it doesn't feel like a short story to me. I think CJ is spot on, you t reveal the animal sign pets after the quatlmander has appeared, so there is no foreshadowing - in fact it seems like post shadowing (if that's possible).


[Page 1]


I'm not keen on ‘sun’s watchful orb’, sounds to me like something separate from the sun itself.


As journeyman rainmaker I would have thought clear skies was what he usually same, presuming that he is called upon to generate rain where there is none, but perhaps I don’t understand his role yet.


‘...but the sun’s relentless vigilance the only protection for the lone travelertraveller ...’ I don’t understand this phrase. Also, how is the sun’s vigilance (glare) a protection in a desert, or wasteland? I would have thought it was a threat due to exposure.


Wearing black in the hot sun is not the best idea if he wants to avoid absorbing more heat, and leather pants – have you every worn then? Super uncomfortable if one it sweating I would think. I see that you explain that, but I'm starting to form the impression that Andrew isn’t very practical. If he is obliged to wear those clothes, he might curse the fact at this point. I'm glad to hear it’s a forced trek.


I'm not quite getting the source of the flickering lights if there is bright sunshine.


[Page 2]


Having ‘Andrew’ in the dialogue tag and the sentence seems clumsy to me.


I think you should distinguish between Andrew’s thoughts and the prose with italics or underline (although I don’t really get why some people still us underline on a w/p).


‘...Is that you under that helmet and beard?’ Most people don’t speak that way, this piece of dialogue sounds stilted to me.


‘...and waved him come closer...’


‘Brent pulled the spear free...’ – I wondered if this was a typo, or if the character had previously been called Brent and you had changed it to Bert and overlooked this one. I would say Brent is a more interesting name, so far the names seem out of place with the setting, and Andrew Sullivan isn’t very exotic, just my opinion though, maybe that will change as I come to understand the setting.


I like that we learn the reason for the title early on in the story. It seemed a bit clumsy at first, but knowing the context, I think it’s actually quite lyrical, and almost perhaps portentous. The city guard have weapons I presume. Now I'm intrigued to find out how the people eat their food (presumably not plastic cutlery!! Perhaps wood.)


‘...safe-keep my rod...’ – Sorry, but I sniggered at the unintended innuendo in that line. I see later that this sort of reference recurs. It’s in my head now and it’s going to be a problem for me going forward.


I'm a bit confused by the night reference, as I'm presuming it is still broad daylight from the earlier references to the sun overhead. It does not feel as if any significant amount of time had passed.


[Page 3]


‘Excuse me, but I couldn’t fail to overhear your exchange with the City Guard...’ – I think you really need to look at the dialogue – real people don’t actually speak this way. I’ve fallen into the trap myself, I think some of the dialogue could do with an overhaul.


Why is Andrew surprised at the handshake?


‘We will be circumventing the city...’ – wrong word – circumnavigating I presume.


I like the qualifying requirement for becoming a master, it sounds like a very difficult challenge, which it should be. There are some nice ideas in this story.


[Page 4]


Maybe it’s just my cynicism, but Jeremiah seems very quick to offer food, shelter and money to a complete stranger. I realise that he is a Rainmaker, and maybe it’s just that the full significance and importance of the title hasn’t come across to me. Andrew also seems very accepting of the hospitality and the offer, easily accepting it as without question or suspicion. I admire his trusting nature, but it could be seen as a little naive for someone journeying on his own, far from home without any support.


[Page 5]


The use of ‘yeah’ is out of keeping with the tone of the dialogue to date, which has been very polite and formal.


I like your descriptions. They are straightforward and economical, not overdone, and therefore leave the right amount to the reader’s imagination.


Andrew has shrugged twice on this page. I don’t see the point, whose benefit is it for? I'm not sure what it is suppose to convey.


‘By late mid-morning...’ I presume that’s a typo, either it’s late morning or mid morning.


When you say ‘write this up as usual’, do you mean put it on her tab?


It killed his sense of smell.


I don’t understand his surprise – she spoke to him directly several times during the meal.


[Page 7]


‘If you are so sure...’ – What? Sounds like an incomplete sentence.


[Page 8]


Eiji’s character has changed very quickly from her being very timid and shy, to being scornful and disrespecting in under a day. It doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t have a problem with the way she’s acting, but I think her timidity at their first meeting is inconsistent, unless she was dissembling of course, but there’s no sign of that - so far anyway. [Later, when it's revealed that she's a princess, it would put her initial behaviour on meeting Andrew into context if he were to think back to that, and how she was obviously dissembling.]


[Page 9]


Now she’s taking his arm, but there’s not acknowledgement of the total change in her character. And I can’t see how, if it’s such an amazing thing for him to link arms with a woman that he would not be instantly conscious of it, rather than only realising some time afterwards.


I can’t see how he would put an arm around her shoulders when he is so unfamiliar with female contact. He can’t believe that his arm is linked with hers after a few minutes, and yet he has the nerve to put his arm around her shoulder without any remark or inner thoughts about the significance of it.


[Page 10]


His shrugging makes no sense in the context of this sentence.


[Page 12]


‘My past is out to get my balls...’ – I don’t think the phrasing of this is correct, I'm not sure what you’re trying to say.


I can’t think of any reason that Andrew would decide to be complicit in stealing the tome. Is it because he has been seduced by Eiji’s familiarity? I just don’t see any rationale for it. I think that any sane person would call for the guards. I'm not convinced by his attitude to the whole exercise.



All in all, I enjoyed the story. I presumed, because of the ending that it was a first chapter, before I read your post comment. I think there are some inconsistencies there, and some of the word choice and grammar isn’t correct, and is quite distracting in places. I think it is an issue in some of the phrasing that would need to be fixed in edit.


I mentioned the dialogue early, and its being stilted in places. It does improve further in, becoming snappier, almost to the point that it is so cut down in places that I had to think carefully to get what was being said. I think the biggest issue is that Andrew’s actions in stealing the book are not convincing. It feels that the character goes along with it because that’s what the plot requires.


Someone mentioned Jeremiah being Eiji's father, but I don't think that's right - I didn't infer that bonds-father meant biological father - does it?


I don't mean my comments to be harsh, I think there's a good story here with some polishing and better commentary to convey why Andrew acts the way he does. I also think it needs to decide whether it's a short story or the first two or three chapters of a novel, because the pacing would be different.

Edited by Robinski
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Thank you, Robinski!

I don't think your comments are harsh at all. I want this story to become the best it can be, so I need comments just like these to find any and all weak spots.


There is a very good reason for Eiji's rapid change of character... but it seems I failed to make that clear enough.

Andrew's motivation and his reason and reasoning to go with the crime is definitely a weak spot of the story as it stands now. I will be working on that... and on making this a real stand-alone short story.


You ask what people eat their food with... that is actually ansered in the story: wooden spoons and bowls in one scene.


Oh, and the 'rod' thing is one I am very aware of... trying my best to dispel it. I'm getting the feeling that it's a connection I will not be able to avoid though... especially in stories or chapters where the actual rainmaking rituals are described...


The thing about rainmakers and clear skies becomes clearer in the other story I posted recently... as that one deals more with Othek culture.

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