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24/03/2014 - Carcinios - A Good Assassin - Prologue (V/D)


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Because he was here to kill a man. Bam, great.


"Once they knew what he was, they would make sure he died and stayed dead. Assuming they lived long enough to make the realisation."

This seemed a bit awkward to me. I know what it's saying, but it could serve to be cleaned up a bit. I know you're establishing who knows what about the situation, and in that case telling is fine over showing, but you want to be aware of the info you're releasing. If Ben knows what his enemy knows that he knows... those are things that will come out naturally.


"His target was still a no show and Ben had been waiting the best part of half an hour."

The earlier we know this (especially before telling us what Ben's doing to prepare for his target), the better.


Chokers/Arsonist are capitalized but whisperers is not?


"No wonder Giovanni was such a difficult man to kill; the ability to make people love you against their will was a hateful ability and in fact the reason Ben had been hired to do this job."

Could maybe take out the hateful part. Even though it's Ben's opinion, I think the sentence flows more smoothly by saying, Ben was chosen because this dude is forcing love on people. It's a weighty sentence all on its own.


"Giovanni was a well loved man but hated in equal measure by the people he had not yet met."

Like right here, this shows us exactly how his ability functions, and it's a great way to sum it up.


"A sharp crack to his shoulder signalled the meeting of Ben’s body with the shop wall."

Sounds a bit wordy, to me.


Aw yeah, token fedora. Without which, he would not be Ben Chance, I like it.


If preparation is so key to an assassination, why does Ben have only one move against his opponent, which, if it fails, he has failed? I don't understand exactly why he can't have a sniper as backup, though. Or find a way to kill him and then burn his body so as to be unrecognizable? Of course it's entirely your narrative, man, but his preparation mantra clashes with the fact that, 1) he does not like leaving things to chance, and 2) he walks away. It's okay for a mantra, but his final actions contradict it.


That's my only issue with it, though, aside from the small technical suggestions. I like the flow and style, and your worldbuilding is good for a prologue. We know enough to intuit what's going on, maybe too little, but the eager reader will want to know more. And I think for the most part your prose is solid.

Edited by jagabond
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This has some good potential to it, but there is a lot of explaining going on.  Some of which jagabond identified already.  You can cut a lot of your paragraphs down to get the important information across.  Right now, you keep going after you've told us what we need to know.


pg 2: "The door opened and a short man in a bowler hat strolled in with his two bodyguards, one waiting outside the other stepping in with him. "

--this is your real start to the story.  Cut out as much of the explaining in the previous paragraphs and get to this point.


pg 2: "None of this really passed through Ben’s mind once he noticed Giovanni enter the shop"

--then he wouldn't be thinking it...


I was also a little bothered Ben just walks away.  There are many things he could do while the victim was incapacitated to finish him off.  Of course, it might be plot-relevant, but then I question why you're letting plot points drive the action of the characters.


It's an interesting start.  In need of editing, but that can come later.  I'm interested to see how you've set up the worldbuilding for this story.  Definitely write some more and then submit it here.

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Thanks both of you for your comments. You have very helpfully identified the big weakness here. I felt there was something off about the assassination attempt but couldn't quite place it.


In terms of plot the attempt needed to fail for what comes next but other than pretty much anything can happen in it. When I rework it I will think about what contingency plans he might have put in place and try and get a more solid reason for why the attempt gets derailed.


Thanks a lot

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I like the atmosphere of the story so far. It really does have a noir feel to it and the breath magic looks really nice. I also liked how you portray Ben. The observations he makes paint a good picture of the kind of man he is.


The very start of the prologue is nicely done too. “He was here to kill a man”. That works really well for me.


What worked less well are the following things.


Explanations: After the zinger at the end of the first paragraph you go into a full page of explanations on what Ben is doing there and how his magic works. Neither of those is necessary, since we see both to good effect when his target shows up.


Run-on sentences: A lot of the sentences tend to go on too long and end up rambling.


Example 1: A politician who could convince even those who opposed him that he was the greatest thing to walk this earth since the men who killed the gods was far too dangerous to be allowed to run free.   

Example 2: Ben had already opened his collar but it did little good; his shirt was already drenched in sweat at the armpits and back making him long to strip the damnation thing off and dash, bare-chested, from the barber’s screaming.


Small contradiction: “The door opened and a short man in a bowler hat strolled in with his two bodyguards, one waiting outside the other stepping in with him.” The man walks in with his two bodyguards and the man walks in with one of his bodyguard while the other stays outside. That’s a contradiction, either the two bodyguards come in or they don’t.


As an aside, I agree with Mandamon that this paragraph should really be the second paragraph of the story. The sooner you get to the action the better.


Preparation: On page two you state that Ben had prepared carefully, but he only has a single plan which is, on the whole, rather flashy. When it fails he retreats, knowing that his employers will come after him. This doesn’t sound like a prepared man, at all.


Weird observation: First we get a detailed observation by Ben on the kind of man Giovanni is and then comes this sentence: “None of this really passed through Ben’s mind once he noticed Giovanni enter the shop”. Then who made those observations just now?


Plan and boom: The explosion came rather sudden. The way I read the actions preceding the explosion was Ben going over what he had to do in his mind, not that he actually performed them. So when the explosion came it felt weird.


Gel: Maybe it’s magic gel, but I don’t buy it that he has on a gel that leaves him unharmed but completely incinerates his clothing. The fact that he can sit in the barber’s shop without getting noticed means he’s wearing a thin layer of gel. Otherwise people would know he’s a man making a lot of smoke, carries an ignition source, wearing flame-repellent gel…


It stretches belief that a thin layer could protect him that well.


Recognition: Ben identifies a completely charred body with absolute certainty. This is odd, especially since the heat should have made everyone completely unrecognizable. You mention that the only reason he could was because of the burning remains of the bowler hat – the heat in the place completely charred Ben’s clothes, how did the hat survive enough to leave burning remains?

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Pretty much going to echo what the others have said. The Prologue piqued my interest, but definitely not the place for worldbuilding/politics/magical mechanics, unless you're Tolkien. 




Are you Tolkien?


But seriously, not the time. I want to see somebody get ganked in a really fantastic way. I want to be intrigued by the magic system. I want a hint at what's to come, but not know exactly what's coming. And I get all those things.


Unfortunately, I also get a lot more. As the others have mentioned, you go on after you could have stopped and long after you needed to. But it's also easier to cut than to add--or so I've found--and this is a good place to learn the balancing act. 


And as Asmodemon pointed out, the result of the assassination feels contrived. Where are the bodyguards in the aftermath of this explosion? If Giovanni survived, then they definitely should be if not fine, then combat-ready. And I'm certain someone as influential as Giovanni is rolling with more than two bodyguards, especially if he's going to the barber (even fictional characters are familiar with Sweeney Todd). But you also have more insight into the mechanics of your world--I could very well be wrong. 


All in all, a decent start. I look forward to seeing more.

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First off, I like the title, it has some ambiguity about it, but early on I'm troubled by the direct comparison with ‘smoker’ in the Mistborn stories, in fact the whole nomenclature of smokers, chokers, arsonists and whisperers feels similar to Mistborn. For me you need to come at that a different way.


As a prologue, I think the exposition could have been kept back to concentrate on engaging the reader with action. Better to present the reader with excitement (bangs and flashes) than description and explanation. I know that you get to the explosion, but I would cut the theory from the earlier section. I see now that others have this well covered!!


All in all, I'm a bit troubled by the premise. Ben’s method of assassination seems incredibly clumsy and imprecise, and the collateral damage is horrendous. I’m not sure if we are supposed to sympathise with Ben as protagonist, but I'm really going to struggle with that after he killed everyone around the target without remorse. There could have been a dozen innocent people in the building upstairs.


I’m interested enough to read on to see where the story is going. I'm not clear if Ben is the protagonist, but from what’s passed so far, I want to hear the other side and see who else is involved. I agree with others on the potential, but I’d like to see some refinement.




Page 1 – ‘revolving chair of the barber shop’ bothered me, why not just barber’s chair?


Page 1 – I guess there is more to his line about stripping off the shirt but, for me, it makes him sound weak.


Page 2 – With the fire retardant gel, I have an image of the man glistening / dripping with some shiny goo.


Page 2 – ‘was obviously wearing’ – You’re telling us he’s wearing it, therefore making it obvious, so don’t need the word.


Page 2 – I like the notion that Giovanni seems to have some kind of heavy duty pheromone – a powerful weapon indeed.


Page 2 – I'm surprised that Ben knows the name of his employers. Would it not be more logical that the paymasters would work through an agent to protect their identity?


Page 3 – ‘a better person’ – I'm not sure how it makes him a better person – a better criminal, yes, but not a better person.


Page 4 – ‘he did not believe in leaving things to luck’ – I had a problem with this statement. His method of assassination has just been proven entirely reliant on luck, and his was not good. It brought me to think that the key to a good assassination is removing uncertainty, but he doesn’t seem to have gone to much effort in that regard. I remain to be convinced of his abilities.

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I loved this. Really really enjoyed it and really wanted more when I was done.


I loved the dark assassin/film noir sort of effect.  The magic system is interesting, though I feel I got a little more explanation on it than I wanted to.


Common wisdom these days seems to be that prologues are bad. Just something to keep in mind as you write this. I'm not a publisher or an editor, but I see a lot of people saying they'll bin anything with a prologue. *shrug*


I got a little confused towards the end of the section where he blew the place up and his shoulder hit the wall. I just lost a sense of what he was doing because I thought he was already outside.


I didn't understand how a sniper (a far more simple way of killing someone) would be less noticable or tracable than a dude who breathes explosive gas into a room and blows up a barber shop.


The line: "It was the mark of a supremely arrogant man who thought he was immune because of his powers" seemed to stretch credibility on the POV character. How could he know that level of detail when he appears to be speculating on the reaons for his target not using the glass?


You repeat "Preparation was the key to any good assassination " a number of times. The second time it felt like an error. The third time I felt like it was probably intentional, but somehow it still felt wrong to me. 


You have "a little shabby". I would cut "a little". You also  have "His shoulder still felt very wrong". I would cut very. I think it was Mark Twain who said [para] "replace all your verys with damns, and then your editor will cut them all out for you."  You also have "looking slightly panicked". Are they panicked or not? Cut the slightly.


Anyway... still very interesting. Looking forward to the next bits.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Manaheim. It is always encouraging to hear that someone has enjoyed your work. I hope to get some more up soon. I have been working on getting an outline of the story done so I know where I am headed. So now that is finished I can focus on the story itself.


In general I take all of the comments about the assassination attempt being clumsy. I will eventually come back to that. But the things that are intentional and plot relevant are


1: That Giovanni is still alive.

2: That he is in some way incapacitated

3: Ben makes the decision to walk away.


Other than that anything is possible...


Looking back I am not sure whether this really is a prologue. I certainly will be sticking with Ben as the main POV character so I guess this could just be a shorter chapter 1. We will see.

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