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20140218 - Without Honour - Chapter 5 (V)


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Sorry for delay, attached is Chapter 5. I have edited this a bit, but I'll apologise now that there are certain things that you've called me on already that are still there. I know I need to reorder things to make them snappier, and the Vekalik section needs work. There are some other things you've kind commented on already which I'll get in the edit.


Thanks for bearing with me, as I've promised before, I'll only post another three chapters.


I've put the maps in again for those who might not have seen them in the first post, although there are only a couple of references to places in this chapter, I think.


Thanks for your patience, and your comments.


Best, R

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Okay, while my comments should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, here we are.



Non-traditional heroes. An aging assassin is definitely not the typical viewpoint. 

Also, definitely a diverse world with a not-insubstantial degree of planning behind it. Better than can be said for my stuff. 

Additionally, good build-up for a larger conflict with Tiracea (?).


Needs Improvement

Tiracea is actually a good place to start here. I don't know if you're familiar with the Star Wars Extended Universe, but the Thrawn Trilogy is an excellent parallel. It's hard to explain without spoilers, but you have this entire conflict going on at one level, but at the background (read: deftly retconned) you have preparations for a much larger conflict going on. Or, if you prefer, the Ice Monster prologue of A Song of Ice and Fire (the statute of limitations has definitely expired on that)--after that chapter, we don't see an Other for a few thousand pages. It's subtle.


What you're doing, not so subtle. Believe in yourself. More importantly, believe in your readers. See, SFF readers are really annoying in their cleverness (see: Ready Player One easter egg hunt). Sporadically drop hints and trust us to draw, if not the right conclusions, *a* conclusion.


Similarly, Marana is pretty hamfisted in his you-can't-trust-me, which makes him a balls-awful spy. I don't know if we've seen him before (a fault that is entirely mine), but I imagine he's generally up to some stormery most foul. In fact, there seems to be a lot that you're building towards--again, more than can be said about my work--but I don't feel any tension. I feel like I'm watching a documentary on A. africanus, only I'm less invested in the characters. 


Actually, come to think of it, I imagine the early draft of Way of Kings looked something like this. There was some epic stuff going on, but Sanderson kept trying to give each character the time they deserved and ended up giving none of them the time they needed. A Song of Ice and Fire does the same thing. Martin has something like thirty-nine viewpoints, but we only see a handful in A Game of Thrones.


Dial it back a notch. Don't try to rush to the finish. Take a leaf from Kylie Minogue and Slow. 


Really, the only other thing that bothered me was technological inconsistencies. You've stated that you're going for circa AD 1200 (presumably Europe) and that's the earliest time cannon showed up. They didn't become wide spread until over a century later and probably didn't enter idioms until Late Middle English (~AD 1400). 


Similarly, let's say Sketchy-Assassin found a codswainer with the technical skill to make his custom laces and the discretion not to ask what they were for: how does the wire not cut through the wrapping? Food for thought.

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Thank you, JP, astute comments as usual, you've got to the heart of a couple of ongoing issues there, deeper than many. Believe in your reader is an excellent maxim, and I can see that I'm not doing that for some threads whereas as am for others. I will write those words in blood on window above my laptop, not my blood of course...

I take your point about technological inconsistency, but this always troubles me a bit. Why does it have to be consistent with the train of tech development on earth? There could be a couple of pieces missing somewhere that would change the pattern of certain technologies emerging at certain times, or in certain areas.

Fair point about the laces, I'll fix that.

Thank you again.

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And having inconsistencies with Earth tech development is completely cool so long as you have a reason. There have to be very solid in-world explanations, as well as a wealth of other realism in order to compensate. Also, I have a feeling Brekia hasn't the most modern army (i.e.making the most of crossbows/artillery), so if that's gonna be a thing, you should probably introduce it sooner rather than later.

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Totally with jParker on the point about trusting the reader. It's a hard thing to do, I suspect most of us over-sell certain points on first draft, but it's a good thing to bear in mind.


I like how you've slipped in some of Damiel's background via reflecting on his current physical condition. That was a nice touch. But you then spent a long time on largely unbroken internal reflection, both giving world backstory and explaining his thoughts and plans. At that point the chapter pretty much lost me. I suspect I'm repeating myself from previous chapters here, but it feels like it's taking a long time for not much to happen. Lots of people are preparing for stuff, and talking about the reasons behind stuff, rather than doing stuff.
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I'll third jParker's and andyk's comments.  You are giving a little too much away with the setup, and more than that the setup is taking waaay to long.  I think in part it's because you are describing it from too many POV's (as I might have mentioned before...) and it's drawing out the plot a la Robert Jordan.  Even he only had 3 or 4 POVs in Eye of the World.


Saffen's getting lost in the bustle, as she's not as directly connected with the events, and you're writing from about 6 levels of hierarchy in the Brekian kingdom: Vekalik -> Kavyelan -> Damiel -> Lenal -> Teiman -> Marnar.  I keep mentally losing sight of who Kaveylan is, so I think I hit my limit for remembering what's going on.  In editing, I would cut that down to just 3 POVs: Vekalik at the top, Marnar at the bottom, and Damiel as the magic user, in the middle.  That way you can also have fun taunting the reader with events that occur around them, but we have to figure out.

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Thanks guys, I'll swing the axe in the edit. In view of the comments received on 1 to 5, I'm doing an interim edit on 6, 7 and 8. It won't be all that you want it to be I'm afraid, in terms of the big ticket items, but I'm just trying to make it a bit more bareable - then I'll leave you alone, I promise.


The next chapter sees a meeting of ways of some of your 'favourite' characters, and there are really only two viewpoints, sort of... and it's got lots of Saffen, which I hope is a good thing.

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Dat map!


I have not read previous chapters, and other comments have been good—jParker is particularly on the money—so I'll try to give new feedback :)


When you're editing, I would look for all the times you use "of course" in your dialogue. I think you could lose them pretty easily.


The info and POVs gave me some trouble, but it was the little things that shook my orientation. There would often just be "the man" or "a man", and I was never sure which to mentally remain aware of. The relevance of the minor characters' actions fluctuated a bit. It makes the world feel full, surely, but you might be able to sweep some of those away without losing that.


I see a handful of commas to break sentences that might be better broken with em dashes or semicolons: "The prisoner, Damiel did not have the confidence in him to think of him as Tekis or Lyrss, started to speak when the first of four bells sounded" Maybe an em dash would work there? I mean these are minor stylistic things, but they could help readability.




Heartbeats, unheard, counted to the start of the phrase, two peels (peals, right?), two peels, four peels, three peels, the signature of the Master Physic of Brekia, the signature of Felkram Sahkal himself. Then the words came, and he did not hear them, but felt them, knew them as they entered him, and spoke them into space, oblivious to whether anyone remained to hear them.


This confused me a bit. Unheard heartbeats is a new one for me. Is that metaphorical or magical? If it's limited POV, are there heartbeats that he knows are there but can't hear? The words are real, because the characters respond to them, but the bell:heartbeat ratio seems like it's key to cracking this language, and that has me a little lost :)


The glimpses of magic I can see through Damiel, though, I dig it. I like subtle, physical stuff, and someone in his line of work can make use of it. Reminded me a bit of the Farseer trilogy since that 'magic' was about mental sensations and communication.


Lastly, I love me some thick fantasy, so the various names didn't bother me. I also know I'm coming in at chapter five, so I don't expect to have solid opinions on everyone. But I will echo that some POV trimming can do wonders. Or, at best, combining characters. That's just me though; in the early stages, I love fusing various characters together.


Hope I was helpful. I definitely feel like there is a real world here, but even with the map I don't quite have my bearings yet, so we'll see!

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I'm not liable to be able to get to this until the weekend; I'll take a look while I'm at work then.


Hey, no problem, happy to take comments regardless of the when and the where - thank you. I'm half way through your story - comments today or tomorrow  : o )

Edited by Robinski
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Thank you Jaga, great comments from a different perspective, very helpful. I will certainly take those into account.


I'm glad you find the magic effective. I take your point about the silent heartbeats. I will be going back to look at the consistency of the magic throughout, as I feel it's a bit vague, definitely not in the Sanderson vein or being very specific about how the system works, complete with rules and regulations. I'm not saying that I'm going to impose that degree of order, but I'd like to have a set of parameters behind the system, while still presenting it in a more 'organic' way.


Also, I'm now accustomed to the fact that I have become Public POV Criminal No.1, and that I have a considerable debt to society to repay. It may take several years, but I'll do the time!

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I haven't gotten a chance to critique yet, but I have to ask... Why only 3 more chapters?


I don't think it's fair to ask you guys to read what could turn out to be 30 chapters one week apart, when I'm possibly taking slots away from other people. For a given novel, you would probably read at a different, more natural, pace. So, I reckon that after eight chapters the biggest issues will be out there (I think they are already), so I'll finish the novel with the excellent comments I've had to date (thanks again!), then put 'Without Honour' in the Alpha Reader arena, where anyone interested can read it at that more natural pace.

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That's cool, though I honestly believe that having beta readers throughout the book is going to help a lot more in the long run because you'll get one type of feedback. Then, once your whole book has been beta read, that's when you should alpha. JMHO, and I honestly don't think that it's unfair for you to submit as many times as possible. It would be different if all 5 slots filled up regularly, but we are here to help your book be better and if that means submitting 30 individual chapters in a row, you shouldn't keep yourself back. Do what you feel is right for you. I mean, if that's only submitting 3 more chapters, then so be it, but don't do it out of consideration for us. Just my $0.02.
Now on to the critique:
Laid it low?
The first pages feel like they can be condensed or cut. There is a couple pages of pure infodump, and the description feels too spread out and sparse. I'm not getting a good picture in my head of what he's seeing or why what he's seeing is important. This could also be caused by the fact that Damiel is stopping and proceeding more than once so the description feels disjointed.
Page 7 - Ah, here is were your chapter hits its stride. I'd cut everything before it and just start here.
From here forward your descriptions are much tighter, but remember to use all five senses!
Page 10 - Why does he need confidence to think of the prisoner as Tekis?
Okay, I need to comment on the names. Yes, fantasy names are fantasy names and sometimes it's okay to throw in names that can have multiple pronunciations, but sometimes the names you use are distracting. Pyrshavan is still driving me mad. Per-shave-an? Pyr-sha-von? I don't really know what's bothering me about them so much. It could be that only proper nouns seem to have made up names. Or maybe it's that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to your names, but something about them is taking me out of the story. Sorry, I can't be more specific.
13 - For some reason I feel this soldier would lose respect for a leader who he could give the command, "Command it," and not be chastised for overstepping his bounds.
14 - The king feeling rebellious for not calling his steward? Absolutely brilliant!
 15 - By now I'm getting a bit tired of the way you block your chapters. It feels like something happens, or someone says something, and then every single time we get an infodump explaining. Okay, not literally every time, but it feels that way. As a reader, I want to be able to follow their conversation and not feel like they are lecturing. I think Brandon calls this maid and butler dialogue, where it feels like the characters are only saying something to inform the reader.
16 - I'm at odds with them talking about how strong they are as a people, yet they don't really seem to judge Kaltor for being old, which (purely based on what I know of these people in this chapter) I feel they would do, even in train of thought.
Strong ending. Why the italics? Because it's in the past?

All in all this was a big step up from the last chapter. There are still some points where your writing could be a bit tighter (e.g. "knocking sound" should just be "knocking") but overall this was a much more refined piece of work, I feel. I'm interested to see how it grows from here.
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Thanks Hawkedup, much appreciated - I take your point about the submissions - just remember you said that if we get to Christmas and you're reading the blinking thing! (Allowing for gaps to give others a chance).


All good points, thank you. Take your point about the lead in at the start, and also the senses, good one, I needed someone to tell me that.


On the names, I'm certainly aiming for some consistency in the place names, the target being Scandanavian / North European. To use the example, I thought Peers-havan, or possibly Pers-havan, subject to dialect, seemed relatively straightforward. Easy for me to say, I suppose. I've certainly come across names in fiction that I've struggled with myself. My trick is to read over a name quickly the first time I see it, possibly pick it up wrong, then proceed under my misapprehension for the rest of the book. The alternative, I suppose, is to stop and take care to get it right first time, but that then stops the flow. Good point - I'll mull on that.


As far as character names, there is a mix of methods. I have tried to use Scandanavian roots for the Svar names, but then tweak some of them. Others, I have just made up, you're right. The Brekians all have at least one 'k' in theirs, and there are other (later) that are tweaked from real names (Leonard > Lionard), in a GRRM sort of way.


Take your point about 'Command it,' - it's gone, and glad I got a smile out of you on Page 14!


Yes, maid-and-butler is a heinous crime - I've pulled others up for it here - at the risk of going all classical, hoist by my own petard (ouch). I'll add that to my "deadly sins" list.

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