Author Topic: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)  (Read 830 times)

Recovering_Cynic

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For those of you who read and reviewed my last draft of this story (all two of you), the first two pages of this draft are the same.  The rest of the draft is entirely different; I re-wrote it with a different setting, tone, and mostly different characters.  It's also about 4,000 words shorter, which should please the masses.  Be brutal in your assessment. 
this is the way the world ends,
not with a bang, but a whimper
~T.S. Eliot

ryos

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2010, 04:34:53 AM »
You seem to have sent the original draft by mistake.
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Recovering_Cynic

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2010, 11:47:31 AM »
New draft sent :)
this is the way the world ends,
not with a bang, but a whimper
~T.S. Eliot

Dark_Prophecy

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2010, 12:54:37 PM »
Man, I just finished the first draft, then got the new one in my email. Too much reading on the computer for one day. I'm going to have to take a break and get to this one tomorrow.

The one thing I CAN tell you is that you, my friend, are a storyteller. The first draft was good, so as long as you keep your voice in the piece, and didn't edit it out with the changes, I think you've definitely got a winner.
I like basketball, hanging out with my friends, reading, slamming a garbage can into a pimp or two with magical heavenly powers. You know, teenager stuff.

Asmodemon

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2010, 10:00:18 PM »
Well, having also read most of the first draft before I got the second one, I can see you really went to work on this. The Sun Guard for one is much more believable now Ė before they were all too trusting, too open, to feel like actual soldiers. The rest too is much tighter.

There isnít much I can think of to comment on; on the whole the story worked pretty well for me. That said, I did find some small things that didnít work so well.

The first concerns Phayís punishment for nearly killing an officer. She should be punished, at the very least to bring home that where she is is serious business. However the stocks seem a little too public a place to put someone who isnít allowed out of the compound for fear of revealing what she knows. She can see Toshu and he can see her, and so can all the other people, so I figure they would be able to hear each other as well. While she didnít do anything Phay could just as easily have started shouting about what she had seen Ė now maybe no one would believe her, but could the Sun Guard really take that risk?

The second thing concerns the magic system. You changed how she learns what she can do, but with that explanation the disappearing magic she has seems to change too (at least it feels different than it was in the first draft to me). Iím a little iffy on the whole putting her awareness in the dagger thing. BalKon explained it like this:

Quote
Your essence is inside the sword, and your opponent will sense this.† Your body will not become invisible, but your enemy will have a hard time noticing it.† All its attention will be fixed on your blade

The last sentence in BalKonís explanation says the attention of people watching her is directed to the blade. So I read this as a way of misdirection, but when Phay uses it the first time she becomes, for all intents and purposes, invisible. BalKon couldnít see her when she was playing with her new weapon and he knew she was going for the blade. His eyes might have slid over her, but when he did his attention ought to have been directed at the blade Ė even sheathed, and he should have known something was wrong.

ryos

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2010, 06:12:37 AM »
This version is much better than the first, in so many ways. Good job coming up with a plot that works for a short story. I, of course, still want more story. This is both good and bad; it's good because it means I liked the story enough to want to keep reading, and it's bad because I still am not satisfied with the ending.

Don't worry; the issue is not so serious this time as it was the last. I just don't think you ended on quite the right note. I wanted the story to linger just a bit longer, and instead, it wrapped up in a rush. I know I have issues with this too, but that doesn't mean I can't call it like I see it. ;) But more than that, I think the Colonel's question is off. "So you're going to throw your lot in with us?" Well, like, DUH. You didn't giver her a choice, doofus. (Yes, okay, he gave her the non-choice of conscription or death.)

Another thing I thought was just a bit off was when Phaylyn mind melds with BalKon, and she sees his perception of her, and he grieves having chosen to foster to her. The way it was presented left the fostering as a random and irrational act. BalKon seems like a much wiser, more grounded individual than that. He had to have seen something in her, or at least had a reason that seemed good at the time. He should definitely feel pain for her continued rejection and childishness, he should probably be feeling a bit of buyer's remorse, but I want his reasoning for the original act to come through. I want Phay to see the kernel of hope he harbors that she will reach the potential he must have seen in her.

Another oddity is that no other smoke knight (err, what did you call them? Smoke knights are from Girl Genius, and my brain just filled it in for the term it couldn't remember, so that is what they shall be called) discovered how to kill the ghouls (again, the real term is just gone from my brain). Are they just trained more, and so shielded themselves from connecting deeply enough? Bring that out. The Colonel accepted her declaration that she knew how to take them down far too easily anyway; his disbelief could be a good spot to bring that out.

Both the Colonel and Porish felt just a bit off, character-wise. They felt shallower, and lacking in depth. This is hard for me to quantify, and honestly I could just be subconsciously reacting to the change since I got to know them before, in the other draft, but it's something to look at.

Also, the scene with Phay and Poorish was a little rough. Phay's childish protestations need work to not come off awkward, and Porish needs to be a bit more dignified.

(I should note that these are just one man's opinion; I speak in the imperative (I want this; this needs to happen), but take them for what they are: opinions that could be wrong.)

You've done an admirable job improving the piece, and now all it needs is some polish, and a little extra "oomph". The gifts of Alowish are much cooler in this version, and much more competitive with those of Furnios. I still enjoy your world, I still think it feels like the setting for a novel, and I still wish I had a novel-sized story with this setting and characters, but these are good things. The plot is tighter, there's more narrative tension. Nice work. :)
Eerongal made off with my Fluffy Puff confections.

Silk

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2010, 03:39:43 AM »
Nitpicky stuff first:

Toshu seems to disappear entirely after Phay realizes that he's been beaten. She doesn't hear him chasing after her, or remark that he's not following her, or think about

him or notice his presence/absence at all until the next scene. I know that she's kind of busy and can't be too worried about him, but honestly, the way it is right now it

looks more like the writer forgot about him than anything. It won't take much to fix this, though.

"she had a hard time seeing a reason to leave." Again this line makes me wonder what's happened to Toshu. In one of the previous scenes she was wondering whether he

was still alive, and thinking about meeting him at the Cathedral. It seems a bit strange that she doesn't wonder what's happened to him now that she's a bit more at leisure.

I was somewhat startled, actually, at Toshu's appearance while she's in the stocks. He hadn't really struck me as a jerk before. Yes, he betrayed Phaylyn, but he'd been

beaten and seemed genuinely sorry for it. A deliberate display of malice like this one seemed a little out of place to me. Perhaps it would help if we'd gotten some more of

Phay's thoughts about the "worm" earlier.

Balkon's dialogue seems a little inconsistent. That is, he seems to slide between formal and informal speech. 

Wait. I thought Phay had decided that she didn't want to kill BalKon if she didn't have to (or try to, anyway)? Or was sneaking out with her sheathed blade the whole of her

plan, and Balkon just interfered?

I like this story, but I think there are some problematic emotional gaps still. Until the Jagermot raid, it literally doesn't seem to register with Phay that BalKon has saved her

life. I don't think she ever once acknolwedges it (except at the end). When she realizes that BalKon will have to die in order for her to escape, I was looking forward to

seeing how that would affect her character, and to all appearances... it didn't. There's a moment where she realizes that she may not have to kill BalKon in order to escape,

and her comment is something along the lines of "That's fine, I don't fancy my chance against him in a fight anyway." She sems utterly ambivalent towards BalKon in any

important way; he annoys her by showing up all the time when she tries to escape and that's it. Even her fear of him in the early scenes seem to vanish without reason.

I realize that she's not necessarily going to be grateful to BalKon for rescuing her and then--essentially--jailing her, but she must feel SOMETHING about it. Is she grateful

despite herself? Does she feel like she SHOULD be grateful, but can't manage it? Does her resentment leave no room for anything else? For that matter, IS she resentful?

Aside from the fact that she keeps tring to escape there's no real indications that she is.

And how does she feel about Fostering? She doesn't seem at all curious about what it is or how it works, for one thing. And how does she feel about having it done to her? It strikes me that something that intimate would seem rather... invasive. But again, for all the consideration she gives it, except at the end, and except for the fact that it lets BalKon continuously get in her way and annoy her, it might as well not have happened at all.

There's also the question of--what is she trying to escape from? And/or what is she trying to go back to? Yeah, being basically under arrest rankles. But it seems like she's doing a lot better as a soldier than she ever was as a street urchin. Food, shelter, fair pay, a lack of people trying to kill her. The only friend of hers we ever see is Toshu, and he's clearly a jerk. If she has family out there we don't know it. (Wait, she doesn't. They were killed.) I guess you could say that while we know WHAT drives her (freedom), we don't really know why (what is she going back to?).

All of this buildup is to say that the way the story is now--sorry--the ending doesn't really work for me. At the moment I feel like the ending is based on a revelation that the story hasn't really earned. But I definitely think it could be made to work--in my opinion, it's just a few holes that need filling. :)

lethalfalcon

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2010, 10:20:05 AM »
Seems to have been awhile since this one was posted, but then I realized that you've beaten me up three times now and I haven't gotten to throw any punches of my own. How sad. :)

I read both of them. Yeah, mostly because I apparently can't read (oh the irony). So I'm going to give you the lowdown on both of them, but will focus more on the new one.

My first continuity issue was with the shank. Where'd it go? Did she put it back down her shirt, or did she hold on to it? If it's the latter, she probably would have dropped it when she slipped, but running with shanks is bad. If it's the former, I'd be worried about it stabbing her when she fell. Either way, it's not a pretty thing to have with her when she falls.

One big issue I notice is that you like to start sentences with "As" a lot. It gets a little repetitive after awhile seeing "As <noun/pronoun> <verb> <adverb> to the <noun>..." 3 on page 4 and 2 on page 5 and 6... then it goes away for awhile, then comes back again toward the end. These are nitpicky details, but they stand out in my OCD brain. Just thought I'd let you know.

Regarding BalKon (and yes, I like his new name better): I'm not sure I really understand *why* he fostered her. Perhaps you don't mean to show me, but to me, it feels like a disconnect. In the old version, it was because his father had been his last Foster... that made sense. Now... not so much. Their relationship makes for a lot more tension, but I still have to question his original motives.

Jazua... I liked him a lot better in the first draft. In that one, he feels like more of a family figure... he's a leader, but he cares. He also played with Phay's mind.  In the second draft, he's more a cold dictator. I find that I don't really care about him as much.

In the first draft, Porish seemed too nice. His conversations were quite awkward, so with him I like the new version of him as a jerk a lot better.

I will agree that their new powers make them a lot more competitive against the Heat-touched. However, I feel that the backlash of power feels a little Sword of Truth-y. That's the first thing that came to my mind when I read it. Especially the part about how the first time was the worst. "Say Richard, go cut down that tree," I remember. It's probably fine, but I wanted to bring it to your attention. The old way reminded me of Atium shadows, though... so yeah.

I'll agree with Asmodemon about how BalKon reacts when she flows into the blade. He knew she was there, and he knows about the misdirection, so that kind of trick really shouldn't work on him at that time. And yet, it apparently does, to the extent that he acts surprised. Did he just randomly forget where he was? Or does this power grant amnesia to the beholder?

The Jagermots make for a much better battle than the quest to retrieve the escaped prince; I certainly liked it a lot better. I also liked how you found out about the weak spot of them from the connection. However, I have to ask, is this really the first time that someone's managed to connect with them without them exploding in their face? Why didn't someone connect with the one sitting in the lab? BalKon knew it was there (at some point), so why didn't he? It seems a little too convenient that our main character just happens to find the weak spot to the enemy in the nick of time.

Another thing I like (backing up a bit) is how you reveal her past. BalKon saw it, and just blurts it out to Jazua. Normally, I'd consider that very telly, but in this case it works really well. And you keep it short, so it isn't dragging on. Bravo.

Also, the ending was kinda ruined for me because I found a very big flaw with their reasoning. "You would commit treason?  Seal your fate with ours?" Well, no, not really, I think. I'm going to show you how you can beat them, so you can just kill the one you're harboring in your basement and you'll never have to worry about someone accusing you of having one anymore. On the plus side, you now know exactly how to kill them, you can win the war, and if anyone asks how you learned, you just say you found out on the battlefield. Tada! To me, that'd be a darn good way to get out of the Sun Guard. Now I just have to deal with this big lizard-goat-thing that's going to follow me around for the rest of my life. Oh well, at least we don't hate each other now.

Compared to the old one, this new one screams of "This crap just got SERIOUS". Gone is a lot of the whimsical natures, the kinda  cheesy magic and traps, etc. Instead it's a lot more gritty, real. I think that works a lot better, but at the same time, it loses something. The people are less human. Sure, I suppose war does that, but Phay's not a soldier. She's just another victim of the school of hard knocks. Perhaps this is what Silk is getting at. There's a lot less emotion spread throughout.

At any rate, I do think this could be a good setting for a full novel. However, this piece as it stands would not really work well in that novel. You'd have to break apart, expand, and fill in on both sides in order for it to work, I think. Still, some pretty good writing.
I don't have good days. I have great days, where I'm a magician ridding the world of all evil, or at least everything I don't like. And then I wake up, and it's back to work for me.

ErikHolmes

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Re: May 31 - recovering cynic - soldiers of the sun guard (new draft)
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 08:38:05 AM »
Great story, its hard to come up with comments because on the whole it was enjoyable and a quick and easy read. I dig the idea of a street urchin finding a giant monster to protect her.

While none of your steampunk ships etc were really described, the names spurred my imagination to fill in the blanks. I especially like 'Cloud Lancer'.

While we didn't see a lot of the magic, I liked it. I would like it more if it was a little cleaner. Like we're told what Alowish magic can do, but I'd like maybe to know a little more about why it works that way. To me I got the idea that Furnios's could use fire, it seemed like Alowish was all mind.

Finally, while I liked the ending, I think you can do better. Right now there is an explosion, she gets knocked into BalKon and this triggers a bonding experience. It would be better if she had to work for it somehow (maybe he's dying and she has to make the decision to go into his head to keep him alive, etc)

Also, she only figures out the stuff about the monsters because of a magic power, thats often unsatisfying. Again, I'd rather see her work for it. Also, I had the impression that they wanted to know how to kill the monsters without them blowing up, but it still blows up when she hits the runeplate.

But great story, I just think the ending could use more punch!

Who the hell is interrupting my Kung Fu!