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Reading Excuses - 8.11.16 - AH16 - The Thousand-Yard Stare - Chapters 3 (resubmit) & 4 - 4672 words [L,V]


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Hi all,

It’s been a while since I submitted; life gets in the way of writing sometimes, unfortunately. Anyway, I’ve chosen to re-submit Chapter 3 (hopefully improved from last time) and add a new chapter to maintain interest. Usual questions (characters, pacing, plot holes, widespread confusion +/- hysteria etc. etc.) if you please.

Thanks so much!




Atena, the Field Marshal of the Ordo Milita, responds to a nightspawn incursion with her friend and CO Marcus and her army at her back. While the battle is a hard-fought victory, it is only the intervention of the renegade Vulcan and his warband that secures Altamar’s safety. In addition, two civilian chroniclers - sent by the Inquisition for propaganda purposes - are killed when they get far too close to the enemy. Atena blames herself for this, as she was overcome with paralysing memories as the chroniclers were murdered. Shaken by her inability to save those under her care, she requests a brief leave of absence to regroup and piece herself back together…

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Welcome back!


The chapters were fun to read, but seemed to lack a through plot or focus. I'm not certain what you were trying to accomplish with Aetna's character. Was it to really bring home her PTSD? I think you might be 'protecting' the character a bit. The most real moment in these two chapters is where she is relaxing, finally, and then some explosion goes off. That was a good moment. The rest... I can see where you're trying to go, and you stop just short. BUT still better, you get better all the time, so please don't think I don't like this sub. It's solid, it's just needs a little hot sauce (not the sexy kind, the tension kind).

As I go

- page two: I'd like a bit more build up to the dragon coming out. It's a neat thing but the event is covered up by the silliness of the dryads. Maybe have the forest still and the dryads go silent the line before to build tension

- forestry nerd alter! Redwood forests don't generally have an emerald look. Their needles aren't that color

- page three: if the dragon talk doesn't do anything, why is it in here? I love her talking to a dragon, so please don't misunderstand, it just doesn't feel like it has a point. Maybe it could serve to pull more memories??

Behind the battle lines, I saw Shomari, the traitorous child of Mor, floating in the air, his long trunk hanging over his distended, rotted stomach. Remembering that this used to be a religious piece, are we battling Ganesh here?

- page five: there are too many descriptive specifics for a memory. It also kills the tension. Suggest making it short and to the point

- ending the chapter on a memory somehow feels incomplete

- yes, per above, now we're in a new chapter and I don't know if she was asploded in the forest, taking her from her musings, or if we are somewhere else

- page seven: I am so confused. Where are we? What is going on? Is this a training maybe?

-   +1 for female bathing scene not in male gaze

- page eight where she is finally learning to relax and then there is an explosion is very good. Much empathy

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- I really like the opening paragraph, with Atena fleeing the horror of the battlefield.

- " She tried to push past the throng of childlike spirits, but one of them lifted a tree root and snagged it around her ankle, sending him plummeting face first into the

ground.". Is it supposed to be him or her? I was a bit confused because the dryads laugh at her misfortune, so I couldn't tell who was falling face-first into the ground.

- Grammar nitpick - her "inner piece" should be in single quotations - 'inner piece' - when it's already in dialogue.

- I like the Atena's training - and her reaction to Siwatu's help.

- I would have liked Atena to remain in the forest for a little longer - she's only there for one whole chapter, so it doesn't feel like she's been there too long, at least from my perspective. But then again, I guess this fulfills the old saying - always leave them wanting more. 

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I like the flashback a lot more this time.  It seems more concrete and the references to the other demigods give it some worlbuilding weight.

In chapter 4, the magic explanation is a lot better.  This shows better  the trouble Atena is having, though she still seems very powerful. A little bit of an infodump on page 7, but it does give us some more needed information.

Page 8 drifts a little, and I feel like it's losing the plot some.  I'm not sure why we need to know about Koko.  I like his character, but he doesn't seem to add much yet.

The plot continues to drift until the end of the chapter, and as Atena plans to go right back to Altamar, I have to wonder why she came out here in the first place.  She hasn't particularly learned anything from Siwatu, just shown that she doesn't have control of one part of her power.

The writing is still good, and getting better all the time.  I can read through the prose with little problem, which goes a long way to forgiving the lack of forward movement here. I think @kaisa and I are in agreement that this is enjoyable read, just needs some spicing up.  Either Atena should stay longer with Siwatu or save this until later.  I really like her conversation with the dragon, though.

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Thanks everyone, for the great feedback. I've taken it all on board, and have tried to give these chapters more of a focus. I guess part of the aim was to get away from a lot of the battle-type stuff; I've found nothing is more boring than fight after fight. These two chapters were intended to be a bit of a breather, a bit more whimsical, because stuff starts to get heavy soon (spoiler!). Of course there's a difference between light and pointless, and I've tried to rectify that, so thanks all so much!

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Hello AH16!  I'm doing a little catch-up with critiques, so I hope you don't mind the late feedback.

This version is definitely an improvement over your previous draft.  The conversations feel more realistic and the descriptions feel smoother.  I agree with everyone else that there's a lack of focus to the chapters in terms of how it relates to the main plot.  I mostly felt this during the training scene, but that's also partly because I wasn't sure if the training scene was happening in the past or in the present.  At first I thought it was the past, since we'd just come back from a flashback, and I didn't realize that Aetna still trained with her mentor.

More specifics:


  • I like your first four paragraphs.  Your descriptions are vivid and it keeps my interest well.
  • I like that you're emphasizing the child-like qualities of the dryads.  It makes them seem more innocent and less whimsical, which overall makes them fit better with the overall tone of your story.
  • I was also hoping for more of a dramatic entrance for our dragon.  I'd like more details about what he looks like.  In particular I was wondering: Is he a long, skinny dragon so he can fit through all the trees?  And where was he hiding, or can he become invisible?
  • I think the conversation between Siwatu and Aetna is better, especially on Aetna's end.  Her reactions are complex and consistent with her character.  I'm still not getting a bead on Siwatu's character, however.  He's the mentor, and he's a dragon so I expect him to be pretty powerful, but Aetna's not really showing him any deference, and at least in chapter 3 he's not talking to her like he expects any deference.  It's just an odd juxtaposition.
  • Marcus goes into a coma every time he fights and never knows whether he’ll wake up.
    I didn't know this.  Is this new?
  • Your last three paragraphs on page 4, when Aetna's having her flashback, aren't interesting to me.  Your descriptions are cool, but I have no context for the characters you're describing.  But I really liked the part describing Mor and Abaddon - it was super vivid, and it was easily contextualized with Aetna.  Also, you use the phrase "obese arms" to describe one of your enemies - maybe choose a different word so it doesn't come across as the fat=evil stereotype.
  • His shock of white hair swayed almost comically in the frigid breeze.
    Using the word "comical" drains some of the tension from this scene.
  • For page 1 and 2 of Chapter 4, I wasn't sure if we were in the past or the present. Also, it doesn't seem connected to the main plot, so I'm starting to want to skim to get to the parts about the main plot again.

Hope that helps!

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