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20150907 Chuck Hossenlopp - Epoch Win Chapter Zero

Chuck Hossenlopp

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Read the Intro thread.

You need to have Silk add you to the distribution list. Once you're on there you post and ask if there's room for you to submit or if the week is crowded. Then when you have the okay, you email your story to the email address specified (That you apparently found, since you sent the email already, but didn't put an attachment)

Edited by Shrike76
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Knew I was missing something. I resent the email, the attachment shouldn't fall off this time. I'm probably too late for this week even if there is any room for me



Well, you'd have had to post in this thread to raise your hand for this week:



Silk is away temporarily, so I think even if you had followed the instructions and messaged her, you probably won't have been added to the list so you won't receive the other submissions by email.

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Here's my honest, unfiltered feedback. 


Quick note: Your page numbering was off. Your page 2 is actually page 1, page 3 is actually page 2 etc.


Pg 1:

Good opening paragraph. Evocative.


“Of course,” I said. I mean Drizzk said, a female elvish rogue whose countenance was the envy of all realms.

Confusing. Jarring.



He speaks little, and when he does, it’s usually impolite.

These sound like they’re taking from a character description document. Also, past tense is broken with ‘speaks’


We approached the gate in silence until Drizzk, that’s me, the curvaceous and exquisite sun-elf rogue

I find this really jarring. It really breaks the immersion. The narrator sounds completely removed from the story. It’s good that you’re establishing who the characters are but needs to woven in with more subtlety. Read The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb for a masterclass in first person past tense.


Page 2

Dialogue feels too modern (Dude, Jackass, Take a leak etc)


Confused.. the opening paragraph painted images of a cave in a mountain. Now they’re in Califonia.


Okay. Alfred Healy. They’re playing D&D or something. Interesting..


Pg 3

Reading on, mildly engaged. This isn’t something I’d normally read (outside of Reading Excuses), but the modern writing feels more at home in the modern setting. Feels internally consistent, not jarring like before.

There’s a lot of character description. I don’t really care what they look like yet, since I’m not engaged in the story of their lives yet.


Pg 4

Waiting for the story to get going…


Pg 5.

Chaotic. Lots going on. Feels kind of real but also a bit messy. It’s not conjuring a coherent, vivid experience in me.

Still waiting for the story to get going.. Hope this email is interesting.


Pg 6

This is a nice character detail:

Al was merely bemused and I could tell that he was wondering how he could tactfully get off the phone and back to his game.



Pg 7

Okay, now I’m engaged. The promise made is that this story is about fantasy and reality colliding somehow. I think you could have got to this point a lot quicker. If I found this in a bookshop I probably would have put it down before I reached the interesting bit.


If this discover is so earth shaking (which it seems to be) why did Alfred not mention it sooner? All the other stuff in the previous 6 pages seems irrelevant in light of this.



Pg 8

The characters are talking like academics now. A welcome shift of language compared to way they were speaking before (my bias coming in there). It adds some dimension, but this kind of academic postulating in real world setting might draw some heat from people who know their rust about history. I suppose the important questions here are how scientifically possible is this? And if the answer is ‘not very’ then how aware is the book of its lack of scientific probability? I.e. it’s not trying to trick the reader into thinking it has a firm academic grounding if it doesn’t.

These characters feel very different from page 8 compared to how they were introduced.


 Pg 9

While the historical speculation is interesting, it feels like a little too much all at once. Bit of an info dump I suppose, before I really care about who these people are.


Pg 10

The protagonist (Al?) insisting they join him on the dig is good. Gives the story pace and direction.




I find these character switches jarring. Makes it feel closer to a screenplay.


Pg 11

Story is drifting into video game character interaction. This feels disconnected from the story to me, like it’s alternating between character, plot, character instead of synthesising the two. Personally, I’m interested by the plot but find myself skim reading these game related character interactions.


I threw my hands in the air. “So that means that he's going to be humiliated and devastated when this cave man of his gets exposed as a fake,” I said.

Voicing this possibility is a good idea. It connects to what I was saying earlier about the book’s awareness of its scientific credibility.


The last paragraph feels rushed compared to the pace of the story up until this point.


For a first draft it’s decent. I think it could be a compelling first chapter after you’ve refined it. I don’t yet a clear image of each character. Giving them more distinct dialogue and verbal ticks could help this.

Anyway, good job. How long is the book? Who is it aimed at? Are you looking for this kind of critique or do want more encouragement to see you through to the final draft? Let me know and I’ll tailor my feedback.




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First off, let me just say that I'm embarrassed about screwing up on the submission process. That said, I don't feel like I deserve the amazingly thoughtful feedback that you gave, Fox. You're rewarding a rule breaker, I hope you know. And thank you Robinski, for gently correcting me via email. I'll wait for Silk before I post anything further. 


I really love that you went through and recorded your gut reactions as you went through. Please, oh please, don't pull any punches. 


I've gone back and forth on this fake out opening. I've made it longer, I've made it shorter, I've made it sound more like it is a sincere novel opening, and I've leaned on the 4th wall until it started to crack and buckle. But I did all this with basically no input from readers. So I moved on. And in doing so, I was able to just get over it and finish all 125,000 words of it. 


The intended purposes of this opening were to intro the characters, sample the sarcastic tone of the rest of the book, promise cool fantasy stuff, and and get the reader interested in my tinfoil hat theory about Neanderthals and dwarves. How well does it do at each of these? 


I will say that even when I read this intro myself, something about it is very similar to eating a tinfoil and glass sandwich. I'm too close to it. I can't pin it down myself. Can any of you pin down the spanner in the works here? I'm not married to this intro, and I am more than willing to rewrite it from scratch.


I might ask you guys these same questions right after you finish the entire book.

I think this post exceeded my 5000 word limit, so I'll just be shutting up now

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-“Of course,” I said. I mean Drizzk said

I agree with fox about this being jarring. You should try to introduce her name in the dialogue before the prose. And I don't think you need the second reference to Drizzk and her womanly body.

After reading the whole chapter it makes sense why the narrator said it the way he did, but I had to go back and re-read the first page to make sense of it.


Al said he was going to hide the evidence of using the computer, than tells Sam he is using the computer. I'm not sure if that is because Al is distracted by the game, messing with Sam, or what.


I got a little bored reading the physical descriptions of each person as well as Sam's thesis. 


I have a hard time believing the others were given free trips to Europe to help Sam. The MMO scene made them seem like regular college kids, but then they are given super special treatment by their school.


Overall I think you did a good job introducing Sam and Al. I believe Al is a sarcastic jokster who doesn't flaunt his intelligence, and Sam is a archaeologist nerd who loves folklore. 


The idea of finding the origins of folklore in real life sounds cool to me. 

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Okay, I see a good language flow, interesting characterization, and potential for an interesting story here, but it fell kind of short by my having no idea what I was actually reading. The writing is nice and clean which allows me to focus on what the story is doing rather than worry about the language as I go.


Where you mostly lost me:

1) Starting with "Obligatory Prologue" and rushing headlong into a sequence with obvious fantasy parody characters raiding a dungeon made me think I was reading a fantasy spoof. The switch to a modern day telling strained my brain, but I mostly got over it. That being said, if this isn't a humorous fantasy, I don't see why it's a self-referential and funny "Obligatory Prologue" and not simply a "Chapter One".


2) Switching to multiple first-person viewpoints within the chapter was VERY jarring. Even when I had the names. I had to do a lot of mental gymnastics to keep everyone straight and it wasn't an easy read. I don't see why all of these scenes can't all be from the same viewpoint, as I don't find that skipping back and forth adds much. We could learn the same things even if we weren't head-hopping.


3) The Science: You led with a comedic fantasy intro, then someone in Germany makes what would be, hands-down, the most significant anthropological discovery in at least decades and everyone just takes it in stride, which is so strange. It would completely shift everything we know about the evolution of the genus homo, and it's so revolutionary that I can't help but call BS. Later in the chapter, one of the characters also remarks that it's probably a hoax, but the anthropologist who's right there, aside from being excited, never questions its authenticity.

This find feels almost as implausible as finding a velociraptor, with soft tissue, frozen in a glacier and wearing pantaloons and a neck ruff.

So now I don't know if I'm reading a serious modern story where the guys are gamers and there's a mystery to be solved, or a modern fantasy where some ancient species of homo either survived for tens of thousands of years beyond what both the fossil and historical record  would indicate or were transported there through time (and if so, if it was by magic or science).


Like I said, it feels like it has potential but I have no clue, based solely on the prologue, exactly what it is that I'm reading. I'm not willing to go as far as to say that it's an error, but it's something that I greatly dislike in a book. YMMV with other readers.

Where I'm at is that I'm curious to read the next chapter not because I want to know where the story goes (though I admit I do) but more because I'm hoping to find out what kind of book it is.


Grammar and Spelling:


 - "creatures bent [on] our very undoing"


 - Drizzk is written once as Drissk


 - "I have access to your toothbrushes and a full bladder". Unclear this way. He doesn't have access to both. Better if you say he has a full bladder and access to toothbrushes.

- I also think it could be improved if Jack's reaction of "Ugh, that's just wrong" came before the description of him from the previous paragraph


 - There's a Gorelock to kill but I don't know when the fight started. 

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SUMMARY THOUGHTS (detail below the line): I like the set up and the idea, but I think the writing could do with another couple of passes (Couldn’t we all!). It feels a bit over-written in places (e.gs below) and I think an edit or two could really sharpen it up. I would thin out the attributions and some of the banter. They’re game-playing students, I don’t think you need as much detail to get that across.


Also, I think the character voices are too similar. I had trouble telling them apart, because they all tend to use the same student banter. Not so much of an issue when you have one POV (although still relevant to distinguish them), but more difficult when you have three First Person voices. Coincidently, my current leisure book is ‘Moxy Land’ by Lauren Beukes, which has 4 First Person POV characters and gives them alternate chapters. Their voices are much more disparate however, so as to clearly distinguish between their chapters, as follows:


- white drop-out, gamer / counter culture kid rebelling against privileged upbringing;

- underprivileged black kid trying to foment rebellion against society (it’s set in future South Africa);

- black corporate achiever denying her familial roots; and

- white photographer chick experimenting becoming a corporate guinea pig.


Concluding though, I'm interested to reader more. Sam seems like the more engaging character, as he is at the sharp end of the thing. To address the character voice issue, you might consider making Sam or one of the others a female character, or perhaps introduce another ethnicity, either of which would provide opportunities for increased conflict, and would probably make the story more engaging for a wider range of readers.




The tone of the piece gets my attention at the start, after the first half page I feel as if there is a slightly over-the-top feeling to it that makes me think RPG.


Capitalisation is something I find myself commenting on a lot at the moment.”Baron Thorson” is clearly his name, but later when you say, “The baron is right through...” I'm convinced it’s small ‘b’, because it’s not the baron’s title that you are using. Take the example that follows, when you refer to “mountain thanes” with a small ‘t’.


You tenses are a bit all over. E.g. “Bringing up the rear was Nerlim... who managed to combine... He speaks little... There’s a need to decide on one, of course.


The physical description of the characters feels like treading water. I'm not really interested in that stuff at this stage, I'm more interested in the situation ‘in-game’ as it were.


I felt a ‘disjoint’ when it became clear that they had attacked and were now in combat at “kill this Gorelock.” I didn’t feel it was clear they had gone in, although it was spoken about.


There’s some over writing going on that slows things down and feels rather cumbersome. E.g. “I was too excited for that notion to bother me very much just then care


How can Sam hear Jack when Jack speaks through the headset?


open up the jpeg I attached” This dates the technology a bit – most images are readily visible in email now.


Sam’s treatise at the top of Page 7 sounds like a text book and not something he would say over the phone. Also, it seems a bit maid-and-butler, in that Al presumably knows this already, so Sam is only saying it to provide the info to the reader. I know you then aim to hang–a–lantern on it, but I think it still feels info-dumpy.


It’s my dig.” I almost called this when he was talking about it making his career. I struggle to imagine he’s in charge of a dig being a student. I feel I need more convincing. Maybe the bigwigs are set to come in later and try to rest control away from him, but I'm unconvinced that he would have authority over an overseas site as a student. My concern about this is accentuated later when it appears that Sam has a professor marking travel arrangements for his staff. Again, I'm struggling with that.


See that? There goes Al, yelling again.” This stuff feels like filler. We get the idea that he yells, but it’s getting old at this point.


I felt it was weird that you used the Spanish word for ‘beer’ (instead of bier), but the German word for ‘miss’. It seemed too oblique to be humour.


The ending of the chapter felt anticlimactic to me, where it could have (and should have) built tension. I would drop the last paragraph. I reckon “Let’s move” is a better line for propelling the reader into the next chapter.

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To pick up on your questions, I think the big issues to be solved are the characters voices and the (as Shrike says), the scientific context, which I commented on from a slightly different perspective.


For me, your submission (like Shrike, I think it's a first chapter, as a prologue is really intended to deal with stuff you can't do in the main narrative, whereas this is just main narrative), deals pretty well with your main objectives as you list them, but I'll disagree with Shrike's point about language flow - I found that an issue and think it needs a polish with Snappy Wax to streamline it (Wax on, words off. Wax on, words off.)


Looking forward to reading more - but slightly trepidatious (not a word) about reading three same-sounding voices.

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Beautiful! this is what I was looking for. When criticism comes from just one person, I can't gauge if it's personal taste on their part, or a legit problem with my text. There are definite patters to the criticism here. 


Fake out openings work on movies and TV shows, but can any of you think of a literary example of a fake opening that works?

Is the fake out opening worth saving? Or is it just too much of a slog to get through with the confusing name and setting changes?

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Fake out openings work on movies and TV shows, but can any of you think of a literary example of a fake opening that works?

Is the fake out opening worth saving? Or is it just too much of a slog to get through with the confusing name and setting changes?

I can't think of any off-hand, but my memory is terrible so I don't think that that means anything. And even if nobody has ever done this before, that's not a reason for you to not do it. It's even a good reason for you to try it.

The closest I can think of is Tad Willams' Otherland, but it doesn't cut from game to reality mid-scene. You can read the beginning free on Amazon to see what I mean. (As an aside, phenomenal series. I highly recommend it. Also, it just launched as a licensed MMO)

Regardless of any of that, I think that the more important question is this: "Does the fake-out serve a purpose in the story?"

If the story, long-term, is a contrast between these people's in-game lives and their out of game lives, then the fake-out might have a purpose. If the fake-out exists only as a "Haha, fooled you!" then I'll take a pass on it but again that's just my personal preference. (Returning to the example of Otherland: There the game is ESSENTIAL to the story. The game IS the story)

EDIT: Just remembered "Only You Can Save Mankind" by Terry Pratchett. Although, rereading the opening, it seemed clear to me off the bat that I was reading a game in progress, so I'm still not sure it counts as a fake-out.

Edited by Shrike76
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