Author Topic: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)  (Read 599 times)

Comatose

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June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« on: June 21, 2010, 11:59:30 PM »
Ok, here's another one.
First of all, I thought I should mention, Riverlord is the working title.  I'm not very attached to it.  So if, somewhere down the line, someone thinks of a better one, please let me know!

So here's chapter 2.  This one is also a little longer (For some reason there are five viewpoints in this one, but some of them are very small).  It's over the old limit, but I'm not sure what the new limit is, so I'll post it.  You can yell at me later if it's too long.



So in this chapter:

Felix wakes up and is confronted by Sareneth.

Adam finishes is last training session with Selda's younger sister, Karen, before his final exam, and is speaking to his friend Bennet about it when Eshra and Trinian show up.

Sareneth's confrontation of Felix continues in her viewpoint.

Eshra, Adam, and Trinian flee from the University and are aided by Selda.

And two skylanders, Kyrah and Rannek, touch down on earth to end the chapter!



Enjoy,

Comatose.
"Look, I'm just trying to change the world, okay?† I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka!"
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"There's always another secret..."
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Renoard

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Re: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 12:16:09 AM »
Okay.  I didn't see chapter one so I'm coming  in a bit later.  However this would have done for a chapter one in most stories, even a prologue.  I hate to write a critique like this, but I have to be honest.

First off.  My general impression was that I just didn't care for this story.  I found the relationships far too conventional and the characters were mostly too flat and lifeless.  They didn't react or argue in a way that I found believable and they were too inclined to talk first and act later.  They didn't react to death with the sort of empathy or disdain that makes people human.

Secondly I found the grammar, general use of language and general tone to be a real barrier to hearing the story.  Sever clusters of multiple clause runons made picking my way through portions of the text tedious.
Awkward constructions abounded.  And the use of terms like hand signs without any slang or derivative terms was overly formal and pedantic.

Thirdly I found the fire and water powers to be suspiciously derivative of Allomancy.  Borrowing a system or thematic element that easily recognizable is a bold move and you have to be able to improve on it or use it in a way that makes the reader feel that your own version is fresh and distinct, or faithfully accurate.  This was neither.  My this is cheesy alarm went off immediately when someone started pulling or pushing water.

That said there are unique elements and ideas here.  The use of hand signs and the limitations based on time of day was in itself a nice touch, if it had been better developed and divorced from the allomancy.  Of course this failed once Adam started windmilling like an anime character in order to make a high velocity stream.

The martial arts sparring was a good element but again derivative of DBZ and Airbender, however it was handled well at first.  The fact that the Water Aurok NEARLY won because of tactical thinking was good but needed more attention.

The idea of an Allomancy that is based on Hermetical Elements instead of alloys and elements  --an Elemancy I guess-- could be the core of a good system.  And even pushing and pulling work, but you really need to decide on pull-push or somatics and really develop the choreography before trying to sculpt a battle scene.

My best advice is to start doing book reports on the top novels out there.  Pick up a book on literary criticism and start dissecting the speech patterns, scene descriptions and characterizations of successful authors.  I'd say don't use authors who started publishing after 1995.  Not because they won't be great but because you want those who have been consistently successful for more than a decade.  (e.g. Feist, Jordan, L'Engle, Eddings and one or two authors from the 19'th century.  Mark Twain is a good choice)

Continue writing this novel, but try to bear in mind how each character thinks.  Try to separate that from yourself, and try to make the thinking and speech patterns of the characters match the character's personality instead of your own.  Remember, your narrator is one of your characters too.
You can always get what you want if you never count the cost.

Comatose

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Re: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2010, 07:06:09 PM »
Thank-you for your honesty.† It did sting a little, but I really appreciated it.† I really respect that sort of honesty, because without it, nothing gets done.

I've often worried about the pushing and pulling being compared to allomancy, however I actually came up with the magic system before reading the books.† As for how the pushes and pulls actually work, I actually pictured it to work quite differently from allomancy, although perhaps that did not come across in the chapter.† An allomancer pushes or pulls metal directly away or directly towards his or her body.† The strength and speed of the object changes based on weight and position, but not on whether or not the allomancer is pushing or pulling.† The way I pictured it, when Aurok-Hal's pull water, it is difficult and slow.† They pull with the hands, so when they pull water around themselves, the water follows their fingers in streams.† The pressure builds as they pull, so that the longer and Aurok pulls, the stronger their eventual push will be.† Pushes are more like what you are used to seeing with allomancy, they usually go directly away from the body, but can still be subtly corrected with hand motions.† It was actually inspired when I was reading a scene a friend wrote about a man breaking into a prison camp.† For some reason I pictured it raining, and then this magic system began coming to me of an Aurok manipulating the waters of the rain.† Originally the magic system was weather based: Aurok-Hon's could manipulate fire when the sky was clear, Aurok-Hals could actually manipulate the weather itself as soon as it began raining (so they could keep it raining, add hail, mist, etc.), and a third type could fly when it was windy.† There were a lot of problems with this magic system however, so I scrapped it.† Also, after scrapping it, I read Brandon's blog and found he already had the idea for weather controlled powers... Doesn't look good for my "I didn't copy allomancy argument," but I'm being honest.† I may have only started putting pen to paper for this story in 2007, but I started planning it a year earlier, before the first Mistborn came out.† Has Brandon's prose affected my writing?† I'm sure that reading his books so much has affected my writing a lot.† But I never meant to copy him.† You could also say reading Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin has affected my writing as well I suppose, though Brandon is my favourite author.†
I will end by saying you haven't seen all of this magic system yet.

I wasn't picturing the pin wheeling in an anime type way.  I'm not really a fan of anime.  But you are right, it is like that.  Any suggestions on how I could get a similar movement without the anime imagery?

As for the characters being flat.† I think you are absolutely right.† At this point, when I was writing the story, I was focusing more on getting the plot going.† characterization is something I'm just learning to do.† Although I've read a lot, due to circumstances, I was never able to take any sort of creative writing classes, and now I'm finding all I really know how to write is essays, which sucks, because I really don't like writing essays.† I can only hope that I've developed enough that in my later chapters the characters have begun to develop more from the flat things you see now.† I know it's not a typical way to write, but I haven't revisited some of these earlier chapters for more than a year now.

In your email, your line edits only really pointed out typos and spelling mistakes.† I was wondering if you could give me examples of my grammatical errors so they can be corrected and I can learn from them.† I think I have a really great story to tell, but I often feel while writing that my ability is holding me back.† That's one of the reasons I joined the writing group.

Thank-you for your criticisms.† I take them entirely constructively.† I'm the only writer out of my family and friends, so criticism like that isn't something I get very often.† It is definitely something I need though if I want to continue.

And yes, English is my first and only language ;)† I'm actually an honours english major.
A thought: should I post one of my more recent chapters next, one that I feel is one of my better ones, or should I continue chronologically?
« Last Edit: June 26, 2010, 08:10:26 AM by Comatose »
"Look, I'm just trying to change the world, okay?† I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka!"
- Dr. Horrible

"There's always another secret..."
- Kelsier

Renoard

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Re: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2010, 12:35:44 PM »
Personally, in your position I think I'd consider rewriting the early chapters with an eye toward improving characterization and setting.  Since you are further along I'd assume your spent some time getting to know the characters and settings better.  If you tweak the chapters a bit before submitting you might find that you have a lot more to say this time.

I did a good deal more than copyedits, but I put them into comments.  I guess you are not using a word compatible word processor so they didn't show up.  But I was trying to provide examples rather than tamper with your text.

Since you are a lit major let me make a suggestion.  look at your early chapters with an eye toward formal criticism.  Take a pass as a structuralist, and another as a reader response critic.  Try doing the same with Martin, though his style is atypical for the genre.  I really think Raymond Feist's simple accessible style could help you a lot.  Christopher Stasheff could help too.  It's not that they are literary giants, but they exhibit the kind of simple, transparent prose that avoids distracting the reader from the plot and setting.  If Scifi is more your taste, try Ben Bova or Robert Heinlein.

Intentionally applying the skills you've developed in your college career will go a long way toward cracking the mystery of how these writers do what they do.

I'm not sure that creative writing classes are a plus.  I think some of the best writer's take the approach of reverse engineering.  That is to say they decide what they would like a critique to read like then write a text that fits the critique. :P  That may seem vague but it really is the best way I can put it.

For the record, my typos and grammatical issues drive Canadians to distraction.  Or, so I've heard. :P

I think the two that bugged me most were the repetitive use of the same word in too close proximity.  For instance the over use of the term, "Hand Signs."  It seemed far to formal, as if the characters were not comfortable and familiar with their own discipline and had no slang or more general terms available.  Another was the complicated runons at the bottom of page five.

For the record I believe that you came up with your system independently, you probably have similar influences to Sanderson and Co.  But since he's already out there, and your particular variation looks a lot like material from the Airbender movie, you'll need to further personalize your system.  Give it some functional elements that distinguish it immediately for the reader.

As for the windmilling, try substituting dramatic intensity in place of speed and motion.  One ofthe most dramatic scene's in film is the duel between the young braggart with the daikatana and the old Ronin with his wooden stick.  It is in Kurasawa's Seven Samurai.  When the braggart will not admit to being beaten, the Ronin switches to a live blade and very fast, very smoothly kills the young one.  One thing that makes the old man's technique so dramatic is the smooth economy of motion and the simple poise of his attack.  No flailing or cut and thrust, he simply draws and resheaths his sword.  That sort of simple elegance would go further than physical intensity in making your characters frightening and powerful.
You can always get what you want if you never count the cost.

Asmodemon

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Re: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2010, 01:35:43 PM »
What I get from this chapter, as well as the first, is that you want to do a lot of things and create a big and interesting world (magic, politics, the works). Iím going to say this again, I think youíre trying to hard to make us see it all at once. In your comment to Renoard you already said youíve been focussing more on the world than the characters; itís better if you turn that around. When people read books they rarely do it because of the world, but because of the characters.

Now, youíve got plenty of characters, but at this point there are a bit too much. I have to admit, I cringed when I saw your synopsis for this chapter. Not only do we get the three viewpoints from the first chapter, but now weíre getting two more. I have to wonder how important those viewpoints are Ė not every character, not even some of the important ones, need a viewpoint.

Viewpoints:

Felix: Not much going on here, but nothing really bad either.

Adam: Adamís viewpoint here seems again superfluous. The first part is another information dump on how the magic system works. So he canít use his magic effectively by day, thatís good (limitations on magic are always good), but youíre better off showing this to the reader instead of telling them.

The second part is Adam and his friend talking about what he did, why he was close to winning and why he lost. This is another instance of you focussing on the wrong part of the story. Instead of telling us about the fight, why not show it?

Sareneth: I had to reread this section a bit, because Sarenethís and Felixís viewpoints are blending into each other here. You start with hers and then we get his thoughts. Try to stick with one viewpoint per section at least, even if you donít do it per chapter ;)

As for this scene, Felix and Sareneth are discussing what theyíve done and what they should be doing. Thereís also another info-dump on the political system. So far itís all tell and no show and I think thatís a real problem, because Iím having trouble keeping my interest.

Eshra: So far the biggest viewpoint this chapter, with a big fight. Iíll address the fight later below, because thatís where I was having trouble.

Kyrah: A new viewpoint, the fifth, in two chapters. I really think youíre going overboard with the viewpoint characters, especially this one. Kyrah might turn out to be an interesting character, but with all these other POVs running around already and with perhaps more on the way, some characters are going to get the short stick in terms of character development.

Iím going to reiterate my advice from chapter one, you really have to cut down on the viewpoints and the info-dumping. The many viewpoints are really diluting the story telling.

Magic: Your magic system doesnít remind me so much of Allomancy as it does of Bending, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I donít know if youíve seen Avatar or whether it influenced you or not, but there are similarities that will be picked up by people who did.

Fire is stronger by day, water by night, the moving of arms and such. Itís not necessarily a bad thing to start with, because Avatar was great, but I got this impression back in the first chapter with Adamís little scene, so you might want to rethink some of those things to make it yours.

Fighting: Itís all very blow-by-blow, where we get every sign, every reaction and counter, followed by the next sign and so forth. Now for me that means that soon my eyes begin to wander and Iíll start skimming instead of reading. If I skim in chapter two it becomes far more likely Iíll put the book away. Blow-by-blows may seem cool and you can do all sorts of choreography upclose, but it turns the speed of the events way down and makes it, to me, boring.

The aftermath of the battle didnít do much else for me either; the posturing and dialogue seem forced, and Adam gets a Quest to seek out the Old Ones from the Wise Father Mother Figure.

Writing: The writing itself is not bad, but there are a lot of typos and grammatical errors (nothing a good line edit wonít fix) that take a little away from the chapter. It also helps, since Iím reading this on a computer, if you split up your paragraphs more. The Signing battle for instance consists of a few really big blocks of words and when I try to go through that my eyes start to wander.

Conclusion: I think you need to reconsider what youíre doing a bit Ė with all these viewpoints and no clear direction it feels the story is going all over the place. Youíre going through a lot of things, the political upheaval and Eshraís flight in only two chapters, but despite that the pacing feels very slow.

Also, to really have characters arcs I think you need at least 30,000 words to make the characters change and make that change feel natural. So how big do you want to make this book? Thatís something to keep in mind.

Quote
A thought: should I post one of my more recent chapters next, one that I feel is one of my better ones, or should I continue chronologically?

If you think those chapters are better you could show them to us, but if you do we wonít be able to say much about pacing and certain character developments. Itíll also make the story harder to follow. LTU submitted his story, The Name of God, in such a fashion, and that made it harder to read. I think youíre better of submitting chronologically.

Comatose

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Re: June 21 - Comatose - Riverlord (Chapter 2)
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2010, 07:21:51 PM »
I worried about the "Selda Quest-Giver," thing as well.† It felt cliche as a wrote it.† That's one of the great things I'm finding in these critiques.† There are some things that I was on the fence or suspicious about, and you guys are letting me know whether I was right or wrong.† It's great!

Right now I'm a chapter away from finishing Part 2.† I think, when I'm done that, I'll take a break from moving forward and do some of these much needed rewrites you guys have been giving me suggestions for.

I have watched airbender, and the magic system in it is very good.† I also see how similar the systems are.† The fact that my day/night thing came out of my weather magic system doesn't make much difference, the end result looks a lot the same.† in between, I was basing the split on temperature: Aurok-Hals were more powerful when it was colder, while Aurok-Hon's were more powerful in the heat.† I started running into problems of position.† "What if the Aurok-Hal is in a cold pool next to a farmhouse and the Aurok-Hon is inside the warm farmhouse?" and that sort of thing.† The hand-signs actually grew out of an attempt to distinguish it from Airbender.† And Renoard, I really don't know what else to call them.† Just signs I suppose?† Anyways, it's obvious I need to do some work on this magic system, so I'll get to it.

I've also realized I definitely have too much going on.† I think my problem is that I hate filler, where a group is just travelling along.† I hate reading it, and I hate writing it, so this everything at once thing is a result of me trying to cut out all those parts where nothing much is happening.
All the scenes I have written I felt bore an importance to the plot.† In the chapter I just wrote I had a character reveal a secret identity in the same speech they were sharing hidden information from a different source, and from a slightly different plot line.† Too much going on at once, like I said.† Also, the situation was another huge info dump.† Like I said.† If anything these critiques have told me I need to rewrite.

Are my newer chapters better?† Most of them are.† Some, like the one I just finished might not be, but that's how writing is.† I have a couple of scenes that I feel turned out great, but given the type of advice you guys have been given me, I think it would work better if I continued to put them out chronologically.† Also, reading over part two, it seems like I leave most of the character development until then.

The book is currently 60,000 words on word count, and I expect it to be a little more than double that, perhaps 150,000?

I think my main problem has been pacing.† My writing schedule is so horrible, that when I get back to it, I feel as if I either need to make up for lost time, or it's been to long since the last fight, or how much I really want to get this done, and I rush it.† I write quickly, straight through, and rush from important part to important part in order to get everything out of the way.† If I take my time, hopefully I can focus on character development and other things early on.   Hopefully, having this writing group will keep me on schedule, and writing at a good pace.†

When I finish off this part, I'll go through the posts, and make a list of the big changes I need to work on, and we'll see how much difference it makes.† Should I continue posting the old chapters for your comments?† Or should I wait until I've gone over them to post them again?

« Last Edit: June 26, 2010, 07:23:45 PM by Comatose »
"Look, I'm just trying to change the world, okay?† I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka!"
- Dr. Horrible

"There's always another secret..."
- Kelsier