Author Topic: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue  (Read 3522 times)

Asmodemon

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Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« on: January 18, 2010, 06:49:00 AM »
Hello everyone,

this is my first submission to the group. It's the prologue for my YA fantasy novel, "The Citadel of Thorns", which I'm currently in the process of editing. I'm really interested in hearing what you guys think.

LongTimeUnderdog

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2010, 01:39:42 PM »
This piece suffers from having really great prose cut short by caging paragraphs.  Or, to put it better, every paragraph opens with words that demand attention, start to build beautifully, and get cut short before wholly stepping over the line to awesome.  And this happens . . . every paragraph.

Also phrases like "There were bodies all over the place," while not bad by it self, is stacked next to so much brilliant prose that it seems crass and entirely out of place within text as a whole.

To better illustrate the above, I'll use this paragraph from your piece:

Quote
Quickly he helped the old man up.  His age was hard to determine due to his glowing skin, but the timber of his voice gave him away.  He sounded far older then he had before.  The tragedy unfolding all around them left none effected.

This paragraph here you're talking about glowing skin and old dude.  You mention that the glowing skin makes him look less old (or simply unviewable) and then talk about how his voice makes him sound older.    But it cuts there and instead of painting a picture for us, you just leave us with a chance meeting of friends asking how the day went.  You have a flow, so to speak, going and then  you dam it up.  If you want that simplified:  More text of description/action.  Everything that happens or everything we see is just cut too short.

Quote
Another rock, then another, coming harder and faster, breaking his shield.

So by this, without actually being told much about the shield, I have to assume its made of something like ply wood.  Becaise a metal shield can stop low caliber bullets, and a normal wooden shield can too, though the shot will leave a mark.   These rocks must be pretty big, or be thrown at ridiculous speeds.  But if its speed, then how is he seeing them to block?

Okay, the dialogue is really bad B-movie too.  Sorry, it's just bad.

Once the story breaks into what I assume is the first chapter, we have the big Rosen with a big spear holding soldiers at bay with it.  This is another example where the scene is cut short in parts.  With Rosen we know he's big, and got a spear.  That's good enough.  All we have of the soldiers is that they're soldiers.  While they may just be faceless, voiceless objects, they're striking at Rosen with . . . something.  Something that's long enough for them to ignore the amazing reach of the spear he's got so they don't have to think about controlling/removing Rosen's advantage.  This gives me the impression they're not really soldiers but more of some men from the bar who very suddenly decided to take up the task of kicking Rosen in the teeth.

In the fourth part, the voice of the piece changes.  Not just because the short girl  comes in (who so far is the most interesting character, despite her short amount of time on stage) but because the whole voice of the piece changes.  Rosen's PoV and narrative change completely.  It's like we're seeing a new character.

And that's it.
d

Dark_Prophecy

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2010, 02:15:03 PM »
I have to agree with LTU to some extent. I didn't feel like the text was cut short, so to speak, but I did feel as if there were two people writing this story; the first writer gives us wonderful prose, and the second person came in and edited the .doc and threw a few phrases from modern times in just for the fun of it.

Here are a few examples.

Quote
As he watched from the doorstep a brave fighter charged the beast, swinging a maul. The massive weapon hardly made a dent. The creature lashed out with an arm of pure black, slamming the warrior in, and through, a pillar lining the walls. From the look of things the warrior was not the first to suffer that fate. There were bodies all over the place, some still moving, and others unable to.

The prose here is wonderful, but the two bolded parts just don't seem to jive with everything else. They sound too modern.

Another one:

Quote
Another rock, and then another, coming harder and faster, breaking his shield. He twisted, but the next rock cracked the elbow of his shield arm. Swinging his sword stopped only a fraction of the tiny projectiles. Who was throwing those things?


This made me chuckle, reminding me of Austin Powers. "Who throws a shoe, honestly?"

A Third:

Quote
Through a haze he heard Black Rose speak. ďThis will not be like the Great Rot Ė the old Walkers of the Paths had no idea what they were messing with. I do.Ē
Wisteria shook her head. To her the words of Black Rose must seem foolishness. He wished he had the same conviction. What if she was right all along? Oh, what had they done here?
ďYou would mess with the foundation of life,Ē Wisteria asked, ďand bring about the wrath of Lady Decay?Ē

Messing with things just comes off a little childish compared to the rest of the writing.

I think the reason this threw me off so much was because the rest of the time I was absolutely in love with the prose.

Okay, what I liked about it:

1. Love the idea of the thing
2. Flower names, you clever devil! Although Abutilon immediately made me think of the drug Albuterol. That kinda made the name suck for me; might for others, too.
3. Amaryllis is indeed the best character so far. I want more of their back and forth.
4. Liking the magic system so far. Different paths, cool.
5. The prose by the first writer is awesome!

In short, I'm looking forward to seeing more of this novel. You said you've already got a first draft done? Dude, I'll take the whole thing :D
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.

LongTimeUnderdog

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2010, 02:28:24 PM »
I was getting ready for work and thought of a few other things.  Orchid.

General Orchid seems like you're trying to hard for style points.  Tight black leather, dual daggers against a giant with a big spear.  Yeah you're trying to hard for style points.

Why would a general resort to using only daggers?  Why not swords?  Sure the dagger are full of awesome, but why not make a sword or spear full of awesome?

Secondly, if it's dark and he can't see her, and she gets close enough to cut him, why didn't she go for better killing shots?  Open his throat, stab his eye, sever his spine?

And Path of Earth?  Please tell me your magic system is more then just elemental?

I'll rescind that a bit.  Since they're all shamans and flower people, I am actually expecting something a bit more basic.  But then I have to wonder, with all the other brilliant ideas in here, if you couldn't come up with something better?

Chaos

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2010, 03:25:47 PM »
Okay, so I read it, and I have a file of reaction-notes that I wrote during my read-through, which I will most assuredly paste in here at the end. My thoughts are mixed. I did think the description was solid in most places, and I will agree with both LTU and Dark Prophecy on there being a flow issue. I don't know if I necessarily agree with them on how to solve it, however. The paragraphs sometimes do not logically lead into the idea of the next paragraph, which has me cock my head sideways wondering, "What?" So in my opinion, the problems with the prose are either 1. A sentence here and there of telliness, as the others have pointed out, and 2. Paragraphs and ideas in strange positions which don't flow nicely together. Combined, these issues make the piece feel choppy. Though thinking back, I don't dislike your prose. It is better than our initial reactions imply, I think. It just needs tightening.

I just realized that apparently, whenever we get new blood around here we question your prose a lot. Sorry about that :P It's habitual.

The dialogue in the first section is bad. I mean, on one level, if this conversation was at something like a peaceful conference room and then Black Rose cuts off the conversation with killing them all, that would excuse the mediocre dialogue, kind of. Worse, however, is that there is no point to have this conversation in a tense section like this (which has the effect of draining all the tension away). The Elders already know they are betrayed, and the Black Rose probably realizes that if they haven't joined her by now, they never will. It would be more realistic if she cut the conversation short and just gave them an ultimatum, then ended it.

As it were, the sealing seems much too easy for the Elders. I got the impression that the Rose was much more powerful than the Elders, though you aren't specific on this note. I'm not sure whether this Citadel of Thorns is the Rose's personal hideout she built because she rebelled and the good guys are attacking her, or (more likely, considering the talk of betrayal) the Black Rose is attacking the Citadel herself, our heroes are defending it, and she is a bada**. Since this latter option seems more likely, I have to wonder why they didn't just do this ritual-thing a lot earlier. Or, you know, why the Rose hadn't killed them already. Or why the Elders didn't kill the Rose. So the piece sort of lacked that grounding which I find essential.

Part of this problem could be that we are given a throwaway viewpoint in Abutilon. Honestly, he isn't doing anything. The Elders help him get past that Wanderer, and the Elders sealed the Black Rose. Abutilon simply doesn't pull his weight. However, I will throw the caveat that I really liked that he sympathized with the Rose. It made her seem less obviously evil because you had the viewpoint character sympathize with her. Good job. I completely expected Abutilon to betray the Elders, which didn't happen. That's okay, but now we are skipping five centuries in the future. Abutilon isn't sealed in there with the Rose (and if he is, we needed to see that from his viewpoint), so he's undoubtedly dead, and I'm wondering why you couldn't have had the viewpoint character be one of the mages who is doing something productive. Or, perhaps better, cutting that sealing scene altogether, because I know we are going to get more on it later in the book. It's the plot seed.

Let's talk about that, actually. The first section had a high learning curve, with all these new terms (this, combined with the bad prose flow, increased confusion). It probably could have been done more effectively. On the other hand, it was fun trying to figure these elements out. By using these terms, you had me focused on those, instead of what lay underneath. This is good because there doesn't seem to be an immense weight of things underneath. The magic at first glance seems interesting, but the "path" things are merely clever distractions to a bland elemental magic system (as I see it, the magic will consist of the four classical elements, plus light and darkness).

And while I like where you are going with the plot--having someone go free the dark, imprisoned force--it also concerns me, too. I want to be proven wrong with the piece's awesomeness. As it stands, it is the standard video game plot (dark evil imprisoned, 500/1000 years later released, heroes go to kill it) only with our viewpoint characters on the side of the villain. It's not that original.

This may be why you are going for the YA audience, because they will be more accepting of that. However, as I read the piece, it screamed adult fantasy. Then again, I don't know the market of YA well, so I am likely wrong :)

Finally, one last note: your viewpoint characters seem a little one dimensional right now. Typical, standard fare. I'd like to see some depth to them most immediately.

Here are my stream-of-consciousness sort of thoughts for your perusal.

------

Each paragraph, in itself, is very good prose. There does seem to be a slight issue of flow between paragraphs, however. For example, on the first page "no matter the friends that died by his borrowed blade" and in the next sentence we are talking about his helmet, instead of his blade. It's a small thing, and perhaps when I read submissions from a new RE author I point out those quirky things when they aren't big deal. There are also some comma issues as well.

It also feels, at some places, a bit telly. Early on you mention that "Being charred to a cinder was no way for a warrior to meet his end". It seems telly for his character. I want to be shown he's a warrior.

This opening definitely has a lot of new terms that make the learning curve fairly high (don't worry, I'm extremely guilty of the same thing). But at first I'm not entirely sure who Abutilon is fighting. When you introduced the Black Rose--coming right off a description of the room--I somehow got the impression that this was the Black Rose's room for some reason, when it later became apparent that the Black Rose is the enemy. So I suppose this is the same as the flow issue, as it is more than occasionally quite difficult to piece things together.

Oh. So now Abutilon and our heroes are the attackers... I had the impression that they were defending it. This could be cleared up significantly, I think.

I'm not buying the dialogue between wisteria and the Black Rose. This does not seem to be a time for talking, it is obviously a time for fighting. Especially since, you know, someone or something is throwing rocks (speaking of which, if a rock knocked off Abutilon's helmet... that is not an easy thing to do. Now, I'm no one with actual fighting experience, but I do like my skull and spine a lot. Were a rock to rip of my helmet, the same force would probably hit my head back in such a way that it kinda breaks my neck. It should hurt like hell, at least. I'm trying to think of an un-painful way to take someone's helmet by throwing rocks at him, and I'm not seeing it)

I think the dialogue here goes way too long before it gets to the point, which loses a lot of tension. But! Abutilon thinking "what if the Black Rose is right" makes her obvious villainy seem... I don't know, better? I'm not sure how to describe it, but by having your main character respect her point of view, things seem less black-and-white. I'm also expecting Abutilon to join her side any time now.

Why does the Black Rose have her face masked? It's common knowledge she was the Thorn of the West. Logically there would be knowledge of her true name, as well as her appearance, so why the charade?

It is a little odd that Abutilon, a warrior, would understand a lot of this business with Paths, because he is no mage, it seems.

It's curious how much reverence Abutilon has for the Rose's side, when he is fighting against her. I don't understand that aspect to his character.



Your paragraph order is utterly baffling. You are being descriptive, yes (which I am sure lethalfalcon will like) but in this second section, it's like, "Describe describe describe" for paragraph one until I realize that oh, we're actually in a fight. It does not jell with me very well. It could be weird in that most all of the time the visuals make absolutely no difference to me. I want to know who is fighting, I want to know clearly what is happening and why. Now, there is obviously room for describing the surroundings, but when they aren't even used, really, I question the value of paragraph long description. It's not serving much to the story at all, and it isn't particularly fascinating, either.

Okay, Rosen is trying to free the Black Rose. This is cool. I really would want to know this a lot sooner in his viewpoint, so I could feel the impact of the fight scene. Without someone to root for (or understand) my mind automatically scans through the action.

------

All in all, it is... rough. It's not bad. Quite a bit of the writing is good. I like freeing the dark lord, as it is a fun concept which I have played with before, so that aspect is cool as well. However, I am concerned...

I also question some of your choices. The two paragraph viewpoint switch to Orchid didn't really seem necessary except to list her title in full. Which, uh, might not be the best reason to have a viewpoint. That part ultimately felt superfluous, and was an odd switch. It did not help the matter of the flow.

Lastly, my vote would be to cut the scene of the Black Rose's imprisonment, or at the very least, make that part the prologue in its entirety. It feels weird to split a prologue--something that is before the "main" story--over two immensely different timespans. Rosen's section could easily be Chapter One, as I'm not sure you are going to do a massive time jump once again. More importantly, though, is that seeing the Black Rose being imprisoned does not serve this story you are setting up. Those people we met aren't going to be vital until much, much later, (if at all) and by then I'm not going to recall them by name. You lose nothing by simply starting chapter one with the knowledge that the Black Rose is imprisoned, and Rosen is going to free her. That is this 4400 word scene condensed into a sentence.

I'll stop ranting now :)

Quote
Flower names, you clever devil! Although Abutilon immediately made me think of the drug Albuterol. That kinda made the name suck for me; might for others, too.

Oh, they are flower names? That's probably the single coolest idea in the piece. Unfortunately this subtlety is entirely missed by a math major like me  ::)

Quote
And Path of Earth?  Please tell me your magic system is more then just elemental?

I'll follow up on that note with one more thing: darkness imprisoned, elemental magic... Yeah, it has an immensely strong video game feel on the surface. Deepen it!
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Dark_Prophecy

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2010, 06:40:59 PM »
I just realized that apparently, whenever we get new blood around here we question your prose a lot. Sorry about that :P It's habitual.

Sorry Asmo, we aren't evil people, I promise. Well, maybe Frog....:P
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Frog

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2010, 11:03:05 AM »
Okay, to get right to it, we had some problems here. I liked your flower theme and if you want to do a standard magic system I don't care in the least (I often prefer them) but I don't know if this would hook me as is because there is a lot of confusion in the narration, especially at the beginning...

I think you may be under the mistaken impression that if you blur up the scene and purposely leave out a few details that your audience will be hooked by suspense, waiting for you to slowly explain it as we go. But confusion is not the same thing as suspense and it is a huge turn off. Suspense comes from anticipation. You can give me a false lead or several leads, but you have to give me something solid to work with from the get go. I have to know the why's, the stakes and the characters or I have no reason to care what happens to them.

Here are some specifics that will probably come out in the document.

At the beginning you had so much description and vague declarations that it took entirely too long for me to get the basic premise. You had some action, but nothing to draw me to the characters/world. And then when you got to some exposition through the conversation of the elders, it seemed rather unlikely (they were both giving long speeches that seemed very out of place) so it just looked like an infodump and not a very informative one since you were referring to things we would have no way of knowing. The whole thing seemed to be running at a very leisurely pace which seemed inappropriate for the situation.

One thing about YA is that they tend to be more introspective (teens being very self-centered little buggers). Having a strong bond with the MC is huge and right now you are jumping POV too much for that to happen. I agree that Orchard's POV should be cut and if Abutilon is your man for the prologue, you are going to give me more of him as a character (I didn't understand why he should be so torn about going after Black Rose and why he seemed so detached/ casual about the situation) and have some more impact (like when he just kind of sat down and watched the two magical types bicker... yeah I wanted some actual confrontation there).

And come on. Abutilon is charging in to fight a magical type. How could he not know that the rocks were magicked?

Rosen was better, but I don't feel I have enough background to his character and motivations. Or anything about his servant girl. What she is, what she looks like, what their bound is and what exactly she was doing while he was fighting the random soldiers.

Yeah, you are going to have to be more explicit with your characters over all to get more of the motivation at least. The whole thing where you have a random scene of action without much development and then stop to partially explain it after the fact really doesn't work for me. Good descriptions though. I'll look forward to seeing where you take it from here. :)

I just realized that apparently, whenever we get new blood around here we question your prose a lot. Sorry about that :P It's habitual.
Sorry Asmo, we aren't evil people, I promise. Well, maybe Frog....:P
You know, I do have a lot of these things backed up with all you guys and my other group's stuff. If you want me to skip yours, just say the word.† Or just keep with the attitude. Either works. Regardless, it shall have to wait until tomorrow at least since I am extremely tired. Night all. :P
I've already conquered the world. This is exactly the way I want it.

Dark_Prophecy

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2010, 04:02:29 PM »

I just realized that apparently, whenever we get new blood around here we question your prose a lot. Sorry about that :P It's habitual.
Sorry Asmo, we aren't evil people, I promise. Well, maybe Frog....:P
You know, I do have a lot of these things backed up with all you guys and my other group's stuff. If you want me to skip yours, just say the word.† Or just keep with the attitude. Either works. Regardless, it shall have to wait until tomorrow at least since I am extremely tired. Night all. :P

Umm...I'm sorry? that was just supposed to be a joke. Evidently didn't come across as one, so I apologize.
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.

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2010, 05:46:43 PM »
I just realized that apparently, whenever we get new blood around here we question your prose a lot. Sorry about that :P It's habitual.
Sorry Asmo, we aren't evil people, I promise. Well, maybe Frog....:P
You know, I do have a lot of these things backed up with all you guys and my other group's stuff. If you want me to skip yours, just say the word.† Or just keep with the attitude. Either works. Regardless, it shall have to wait until tomorrow at least since I am extremely tired. Night all. :P
Umm...I'm sorry? that was just supposed to be a joke. Evidently didn't come across as one, so I apologize.
Oh, sorry. I was joking too. Most people know not to take me seriously on here but I guess I haven't been around too much lately for you to know. Anyway, doing yours right now so I will see you in the other thread.
I've already conquered the world. This is exactly the way I want it.

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2010, 06:48:16 PM »
Frog...I think I like you. You're okay in my book :D
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.

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2010, 07:00:05 PM »
That sounds like a truly terrifying condition. You have my deepest condolences.  ;)
I've already conquered the world. This is exactly the way I want it.

Asmodemon

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2010, 11:26:34 PM »
Quote
Sorry Asmo, we aren't evil people, I promise. Well, maybe Frog...

Well, if this is evil I think I can take it. Yes, definitely ;)

Reading all the comments really makes me want to get back into it and making the story better. There were/are a lot of things I didnít see, but thanks to all of you the problems are becoming clear.

I really missed how the flow (or lack thereof) of the paragraphs messed things up. Knowing the setting the way I do also made me blind to the confusion of the prologue. Now that I know better where to look Iím also getting a lot more ideas on how to fix some of the other things.

Quote
I'll follow up on that note with one more thing: darkness imprisoned, elemental magic... Yeah, it has an immensely strong video game feel on the surface.

Iíll readily admit the magic system has a game feel to it right now. I originally planned this story as the setting for a game. But making a (full) game just takes too much time and I love writing a lot more than I do programming. And since my job is programming Iím not really in the mood to do the same thing in my free time as well.

I havenít really focussed on the system since I originally thought it up, but it is a bit lacking in development right now. Now that I think about it I do have some ideas on how to improve it.

Quote
Lastly, my vote would be to cut the scene of the Black Rose's imprisonment, or at the very least, make that part the prologue in its entirety.

The prologue is one of the parts of the whole story Iíve had the most problems with, and Iíve gone over it a lot of times already. All that fiddling with it does have some mixed results.

Iíve been considering whether or not to drop it for some time. Right now Iím leaning more towards cutting it rather than keeping it. At least Black Roseís part. Itís confusing more matters than it clarifies. Iíll probably try tightening it a bit first and see how that looks. I can always drop it if it doesnít work.

If I cut it though I can focus more on Rosen and the current time Ė showing more of the magic system should also be possible, since he is a user. Decisions, decisions.

Quote
3. Amaryllis is indeed the best character so far. I want more of their back and forth.

She is one of my favourite characters, very fun to write.


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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2010, 12:07:42 AM »
Quote
Lastly, my vote would be to cut the scene of the Black Rose's imprisonment, or at the very least, make that part the prologue in its entirety.

The prologue is one of the parts of the whole story Iíve had the most problems with, and Iíve gone over it a lot of times already. All that fiddling with it does have some mixed results.

Iíve been considering whether or not to drop it for some time. Right now Iím leaning more towards cutting it rather than keeping it. At least Black Roseís part.

I think this is the wisest course of action.

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2010, 12:32:12 AM »
Er... in evaluating your piece, I will simply say "Ditto".

Okay, I know that's kind of lame, but truly, everything I had thought to say has been said, and there is no need to repeat it.  I will say that I enjoyed the idea of the story and that the writing is just a few steps from being really good.  By no means desist.  With just a little more polishing this could be a really good opening.
this is the way the world ends,
not with a bang, but a whimper
~T.S. Eliot

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Re: Jan. 18 -Asmodemon - The Citadel of Thorns, Prologue
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2010, 10:58:44 PM »
I'll agree with what everyone else has said too. I think you have a good story here, it just needs some polish.

To me it almost seemed like you were worrying about word count too much. Like words were missing out of the paragraphs. Either that or you were trying tricks with them that just didn't work. You don't need them. Your writing  and description is great. No need to get fancy  :)

Here's an example:

Quote
Fatigue made his sword heavy in his hand and his wounds sent lances of pain through his body, but nothing plagued Abutilon as much as that one question. He could bear the rest, and would have to, but the question persisted despite his best efforts to ignore it. Where had they gone so terribly wrong?

This is just confusing, more so than it needs to be. IMO, change it to this:

Quote
Where had they gone so terribly wrong?
Fatigue made his sword heavy in his hand and his wounds sent lances of pain through his body, but nothing plagued Abutilon as much as that one question. He could bear the rest, and would have to, but that question persisted despite his best efforts to ignore it.

And its great.

I also have to agree with the other about the dialog. It just needs work. But that's not a big deal. I actually think its best to just write out the story like this to get the ideas and your thoughts down, then go back and work on the dialog.

Quote
Through a haze he heard Black Rose speak. ďThis will not be like the Great Rot Ė the old Walkers of the Paths had no idea what they were messing with. I do.Ē

The word messing really threw me off. Dealing with maybe?

Good stuff though! Despite its flaws your story is very immersive. Details like the ash in the helmet were great.
Who the hell is interrupting my Kung Fu!