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Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


EDIT: Check out my First Draft on Google Docs if you want!


Hello everybody,

I’ve recently talked about a current project of mine in the chat thread which is to re-write an old fanfiction I started when I was 16. People told me that I should just start my own thread, so here we go.


The Backstory

I am from rural Bavaria, and most of us came late to the whole internet thing. I found computer games as a hobby a little earlier, fell in love with Diablo 2, then did my first steps online, discovered a (German) forum dedicated to talking about the game in the most overanalytic details, and was lost for a good while. That was in 2006. I did start a LOT of dumb poo poo as the sensation of reaching a potentially infinite amount of people with my ideas and opinions overwhelmed me, and among that stuff was what would now be called fanfiction.
It started from the simple but – to me at least – compelling idea “what if the Necromancer’s Golem were sentient”. I always wanted to write dumb fantasy or sci-fi stories because I loved dumb fantasy and sci-fi stories, so I said gently caress it, sat down and started to hammer out some chapters. After the tenth or so one-page chapters, I thought “this is fun and I don’t see myself stopping”, so I jumped the gun, put some of it online in the Diablo 2 forum’s CC equivalent, branded it as an episodic novel with regular updates and hoped that I wouldn’t run out of steam.

I came close a few times, but as the years went on and the userbase dwindled, my dumb story became more and more a symbol: if I could finish this, despite it never being something possible to publish, with utter garbage beginnings, I could finish anything. And so, ten years after starting it, after finishing school, university, university again (Master’s) and over halfway through a PhD, I did in fact finish it. Then I finished the PhD, proven right of course.

And now, three years after that, I got the itch for the same creative outlet, I still want to write fun stuff and not just scientific papers (though that’s fun in its own right for the weird nerd I am), so I decided with some little encouragement from here to rewrite the entire thing in English, in my own world, following my own story, keeping the characters as they grew over the years into my personal darlings.


The Original Game

There’s probably a lot of people here who know Diablo 2 well, but I shouldn’t assume. Its story is quite simple on the surface: the hero from Diablo 1 had taken the soulstone into which Diablo’s soul was imprisoned, decided that the safest place for it was within his loving head, and rammed it there. Predictably, that was a terrible loving idea, it drove them mad and they started to become possessed by the Big D. They ran off to the east, leaving a plague of monsters in their path. It’s up to the player to level up and loot like crazy, following not-yet-but-soon-fully Diablo on his way east and stop him by means of murder, ideally take the soulstone as well and do something permanent about it.
There’s a bunch of poo poo around that informed by the background novels that exist for the Diablo expanded universe which I never read, but had to read up on a little when I tried to (sometimes vainly) fuse canon with actual logic – this made things complicated when I decided very early on to just follow the story as presented by the game and make the character developments and relationships the focus. Hopefully very short summary of the game’s act structure:
  • Act 1: Set in some vaguely central European forests with castle ruins and churches, the heroes start out with an order of women (half of which are warriors, half of which are nuns or something) who were driven from their cathedral. Heroes kill some poo poo to gain their trust, free Deckard “stay a while and listen” Cain from the destroyed town which used to be the first game’s hub, who will from now on act as the sole guiding and exposition force, then ultimately reach the cathedral, where one of the Lesser Evils of hell waits: Andariel, a barebreasted bondage demon scorpion. She’s blocking the way east for Diablo. Heroes kill her, and a caravan leader who came FROM the east can now finally go back, and he offers to take the heroes with him.
  • Act 2: It plays in the desert and is a giant fetch quest. The heroes find out (through Deckard) that Diablo wants to find and free his brother Baal, who is imprisoned inside a wizard who also did the whole soulstone-inserted-into-his-body thing. He knew what would happen though and wisely sealed himself into a tomb somewhere deep in the desert. Diablo can (presumably) just waltz in, but the heroes need to travel all the gently caress over the desert to find a cube to craft things with, a staff and an amulet to be crafted, blend everything together and make a key to open the tomb. To GET to the tomb, they have to go through a completely unrelated pocket-dimension-style wizard sanctuary that looks cool but is obviously just there to do exactly that. In the end, they open the tomb, find out that Diablo beat them to Baal and left another Lesser Evil (Duriel) who is a giant rear end in a top hat maggot monster. After dealing with that, they find an angel named Tyrael who tells them a little more of the REAL story and proceeds to do gently caress-all for the rest of the game…until the very end of the expansion, that is.
  • Act 3: The heroes know that the next step for Diablo and Baal is to reunite with their third brother and the final GREATER Evil, Mephisto. Apparently everyone knows that Mephisto has taken over the body of the quasi-pope somewhere in a temple city within a giant jungle, so the heroes haul rear end there via boat. The entire act consists of *drumroll* another fetch quest where you gather the body parts of some guy who sealed off entry to the temple where Mephisto lives to…keep out the bad guys, maybe? It soon proves to have done fuckall, except that now the game’s worst dungeons need to be traversed to pick up his eye, heart and brain. The entire game is about people doing Great Jobs, Really loving Good Success There Bros, you see. It makes it loving hard to write around when everyone is a gigantic moron, something that dawned on me around the end of Act 2 and made this one…a bit tricky. Anyway, the heroes unseal Mephisto’s crib, find out that they were late AGAIN because the Greater Evils managed to make a portal directly to hell where Diablo will gather his armies and do Not Good Things On Earth, but at least Mephisto stayed behind to get murdered. They take his soulstone and follow Diablo to hell.
  • Act 4: The heroes travel through hell, find and kill Diablo, take his soulstone and shatter it and Mephistos using a special hell hammer. This is completely devoid of anything interesting in-game and almost killed my story dead because I had such a hard time finding material TO write about.
  • Act 5: This is the expansion. Obviously, Baal is unaccounted for, and it turns out that he managed to get back his soulstone (long and very idiotic story involving extreme competence especially from Tyrael), gather an army and is now about to take control of the World Stone, which would be Very Bad. There’s a small village of Barbarians whose entire task was to guard the World Stone, which they almost managed using a magic shield generated by their elders, but one of them betrayed them and all but him were wiped out when Baal destroyed the shield. So Baal just…walks past the village and sieges it from the direction of the world stone, which is up a mountain and the act involved the heroes walking through Baal’s siege up the mountain to the worldstone keep in order to stop him. Why Baal DOES the siege after having practically won already is entirely beyond me and required some heroic acts of justification.
    In the end, the heroes do reach him (honestly nothing else happens in Act 5 except they uncover the very obvious “weird that I alone survived” elder and ice him), kill Baal but get told by Tyrael that whoops, too late again, the world stone is corrupted. So Tyrael decides to just loving destroy the thing and explode half the world. He is very good at his job.


My Fanfiction

As I said before, I intended to just follow the original quite closely, mostly out of laziness: I wouldn’t have to come up with the world itself, have all monsters to be fought just from the game, get a lot of structure and escalation from the original writing, and could skimp on the details because I’m still a little insecure about my ability to set a scene. It was intended for an audience intently familiar with the source material, and that shows in the early writing quite painfully.
All of it was to be told in first person present tense from the beginning of the Golem’s existence. It would develop his self-actualization, establish conflicts with his master as he gained and demanded more independence, grow into them slowly becoming actual friends, and culminate into them being heroes in equal standing.
As I immediately published it after having only written ten chapters with little plans except “follow the game” and the above for character development, I had to retcon a LOT of stuff I loosely or even firmly established at the beginning. I also just wrote and immediately published for the most part, with only a few chapters I really cared about getting right edited before puking it onto the net. Fortunately, I am quite capable of writing free-flow without too many typos or glaring errors like sentences that go nowhere. If I had to have put some actual work into this, I’d have never finished, but now’s a different time of course!
I got through Act 1 by keeping very close to the source material, with some things overemphasized when I thought they’d fit the Golem’s development more than others, but I left out practically nothing. The Necro-Golem duo fought every single named boss (many boss encounters in Diablo 2 are, like the maps, randomly generated, but some are always in specific places and have set names and abilities). Sometimes I even went into ingame optional caves to have the fights take place. There was a lot of looting, the Necromancer kept pulling poo poo off corpses to wear. He “leveled up” after big fights and got to summon more and more skeletons when I thought it sensible, and I tried to adjust his abilities based on a somewhat sensible level progression – I remember agonizing before the Andariel fight if having level 18 already would be realistic.
Obviously, all of this poo poo did not make for good storytelling, but I was kinda trapped in my mindset of “from a fan, for the fans” and felt like there would be something missing if I didn’t describe all five floors of the Countess’ tower (no, seriously, I sat down one weekend, sighed, and banged out a chapter per like it was a loving obligation).
During the second Act, I finally began to realize that a) this was completely idiotic and b) I’m actually starting to believe in this, this is going somewhere, my characters are growing into something I like to work with – I’m going to clean up my act. I started to deviate a little, experiment with the format, added entirely new subplot, shortened some of the original quests or integrated them into my new material. I thought long and hard about where I wanted to go with the grander story, the experiences and developments I wanted my characters to go through, planned more ahead and began to nail down where I wanted to end up. I was 18 by then, finishing school and simply maturing as a person, that helped a lot as well.
Act 3 is one of my favorites in retrospect, because I finally got the feeling that I was writing my story. Of course, it was still in the Diablo universe and they’d collect all the stupid organs and fight Mephisto at the end, but I got creative. I gave the game’s NPCs bigger and more fleshed-out personalities and roles in my story beyond “asks you for a quest thing once”. I recontextualized some events to make the story make more sense, had the internal struggles of Golem and also master take center stage, and was able to grasp the reins.
That’s why, as I already said, Act 4 sucked so much to write because it’s the shortest, barest, just a kill-fest through some barren fields of hell filled with demons in the game. The end is quite exciting with a river of flame and Diablo’s Chaos Sanctuary, but it’s a terrible drag before. Finally, I was able to overcome my creative slump by coming up with entirely new characters that would become actual ones in Diablo 3 (the so-far missing Lesser Evils Azmodan and Belial), giving the heroes someone to work with, and establishing a fledgling mythology probably only tangentially related to the canon one. After years of one-off writing, I finally had them kill Diablo, a major accomplishment.
It stood for a bit because I was intimidated by the final Act: I wanted desperately to bring all the dangling plot threads together, to finish my story I had wanted to tell since I solidified it in Act 2, so long before this point (I was 23 years old now). But could I do it? I was in the final year of my Bachelor’s, had so much better poo poo to do than this dumb project, and I also had developed standards. Could this story fulfil them?
Then I got hospitalized with a nasty infection for a while, spent half the time studying, and half the time bored out of my loving skull. I recorded an entire Let’s Play during my stay, but was still aching for more things to do. So eventually, I said gently caress it, sat down and wrote an entirely, completely original intro to Act 5 to bring my characters up to speed for the final stretch of their journey. It’s at least a third of the final product, has almost nothing to do with Diablo 2 and I’m very proud of it still. I made a “I’m back” thread in the forum, didn’t stop writing and finally, at the ripe age of 26, a full ten years after starting from a single idea, finished with the final sentence, the Golem becoming a Real Boy and the Necromancer…hey, spoilers!
I skipped almost all the “gameplay” of Act 5 because it’s literally mountain – plane – another plane – cave – plane – cave – plane – cave – mountaintop - final dungeon. Added an epilogue too with “sequel bait” (never planned on writing that). And that closed that chapter. Until now.


The Plan, and the Thread

I will start over from the very beginning. Make up my own world that has nothing to do with Diablo, set my characters in it and make them grow similarly, but informed by their new surroundings as well. I want to keep the emotional core largely intact and there will be a lot of action as well, but it will all be mine. And in the end, if I finish this, I want to bring it into the world somehow because I loving love attention. It’s exciting to write again and stretch my creative muscles in a way I’ve never done before (see: world building), and I’m only slightly worried that my style has gotten too dry with all the papers I wrote already and will continue to author, as well as it being poo poo in general because I’m just not THAT much of a creative type (I’ve got a loving PhD in Chemistry okay).

However, I’m a very confident person and am well aware that practice makes basically everything, so I’m not really making this thread looking for advice (at least for now, also bear with me for a second).* My original idea for putting this stuff on SA was actually to laugh at my idiot teenage self by translating the German text as closely as possible and marvel at what I thought was poetic or dramatic. However, someone also mentioned that they’re interested in my creative process in general, so I’ll share that as well as it happens. Additionally, I’ve always viewed starting a thread as very nice motivation that kept nagging me to give the people a new chapter, some progress update, anything; it helped me finish the first story “for the fans”, it helped me for every Let’s Play I did, and it might do wonders for this thing here as well.
I don’t want to give you every single chapter of the rewrite itt, that’s not the point I think, unless you’re really clamoring for it. Just in case, I’ve waited with opening it until I got something. And I will definitely post some material because it’s worthwhile progress to show.

And finally, I can’t be the only one to think “man, this stupid poo poo I did as a teenager wasn’t that bad, maybe I should revisit it at some point…”. In fact, I’m sure that people have already done this rewrite thing here, and we probably all know that you can earn a shitload of money with repurposed fanfiction *cough* 50 Shades of Grey *cough*. I’m super open for someone else to come in here and post their own story about the story, get inspiration and advice to go back into their own creative writing past and dredge up the diamonds from the rough!


*I’m open to advice and welcome it – please critique the poo poo out of me! I have a gigantic ego but hope that I’m at least aware enough of it to beat it down enough so I can listen to and appreciate everything people tell me about the quality of my writing and the plans for it. I’m sure this will also be a very worthwhile part of this thread. It’s just not the main reason I’m opening it.

Thanks for your attention so far! I’ll give you some actual content in the second post .

Simply Simon fucked around with this message at Apr 3, 2019 around 17:11

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Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


What I’ve done already


Worldbuilding

Everyone hates it if done in excess in a story, but for myself I of course have to establish the setting quite firmly so things make sense overall. I hope that I can restrain myself from mentioning almost all of this in the actual text. It’s a lean-ish 13 pages now going from the explanation for why my world is limited to only one continent (most fantasy stories just…do that, again I won’t bring up the explanation in the text) to the last open conflict between “heaven” and “hell” like in the Diablo original before my story starts with a fresh breakout.
I’ll amend this while writing the main text to include important new details like “which countries exist and how are they called”. I’ll keep it fluid for when changing things makes for a better story than trying to keep my original idea intact. So for now, this’ll stay at 13 pages until I’ve written more.


Themes

I stream-of-consciousnessed some central things I’d like the story to revolve around to make it more focused this time. Most of that stuff is in the original fanfiction based on how the characters act and how their morality evolves, but I wanted to put some words down at the start to have a base to work with. I took my original NPCs (and PCs) like Deckard and Tyrael and fit them into this framework, to see if they’d support what I want to convey or if they have to go. So far I could rework them okay, but this was the very first thing I wrote of the new stuff so it’s subject to the most changes.


Designs

That’s a sore spot because I’m just awful at picture art. I’m okay at graphic design I think (at least I care about it more than most of my colleagues and regularly draw fancy-ish graphics for presentations and even some magazine covers), but draw a complete blank at coming up with clothing, armor, accessories. I googled a few armor pictures, looked at some Dark Souls armor for somewhat realistic fantasy stuff (you mostly get overdesigned WoW-esque crap on google, at least I do…), and have finally decided to just wing it for now; in the original fanfiction I just took the Diablo 2 designs of course, but as I said, the Necromancer would constantly “loot” stuff off corpses and get new armors all the time, I think for the story now it’s fine to give him, like, three substantial outfit changes as he matures into a more serious hero and leave it at that. And I can be vague there, really don’t have to elaborate on “leather cap” with “also there’s beads in rainbow colors his earsies are kept warm by fluff”. Have to really break a habit here because I described stuff in detail before to make the fans realize what it’s supposed to be ingame, but I absolutely do not have to do that anymore.


Names

I’m also garbage at those (and suspect I’m not the only one). However, I got big help from a goon already (privately), and got a whooole bunch of mythological inspiration to draw from for the demons and angels. Mostly though, I’ll make those up as I go.


People and Their Motivations

I know where I will arrive at the end because Act 5 was always my own story, but the backdrop is a little different now and that informs some changes. So I’ve jotted down a rough outline of goals and how they change for the characters. This is also important because my original Act 1 was a total mess where I threw some ideas and foreshadowing for stuff I might do at the wall, and I had to retcon almost all of it later. Not doing that again, so I’m making things more concrete right away. I have written this part last, after a re-read to filter for good ideas and character “beats”.


The Actual Story
Here’s the fun part of course – how to write my own material without changing so much I might as well write an entirely new thing? This is what I decided upon already:
  • Keep the Acts structure. They had a very loose theme already (I’ll get to that) and this will allow me to be episodic with big climaxes, hard breaks and restarts. Again, I’ll get more concrete here.
  • There will be a lot of action still – the Golem does not primarily struggle with being meant to kill stuff all the time, but it’s a part of his problem with being a “tool”, and it’s important because he has a side to him that actually enjoys it. Also, I really like writing fight scenes, so…
  • Heaven and Hell (renamed) are still the central conflict, and their respective lords are important players influencing humanity. Basically, like in the original, the world of humans is merely a battlefield and staging ground for them.
  • One of the big drives in the final act was the gathering of an armor set. Ingame, that gives you awesome bonuses and is a natural “endgame gear” point for many players. In my story, it would also give awesome powers but at a ~great cost~ to the Necromancer, with the Golem being incredibly conflicted about helping him obtain it despite him thinking it necessary to beat Baal. I really like this and all its ramifications, so it stays, but I want to make it a little bit less stupid than “Trang-Oul’s Gloves obtained” and loosen the “set” idea to e.g. include a Ring, a Book etc. – I need to establish this now because they’ll stumble upon parts as the story progresses and either have them along all the time, only realizing the significance way late, or have to go back to old haunts to gather them up and say hello to old pals.
  • The locations will largely stay similar – a refugee camp in the forest, a rich merchant town in the desert/plateau (that’s new), a religious city in a jungle, hell itself and something connected to the world’s essence (it’s a crater now instead of a mountain, and no, not like the crater in Diablo 3 for those in the know).
  • Some factions will also be similar, though I had already adapted NPCs and their motivations to fit my needs in the original, so it won’t be super obviously like Diablo 2 in the final product. Act 1’s Rogues/”nuns” for example will still be a female-led religious order split into warriors and spirituals, but I’ll lose the bows the warriors wield.
  • Soulstones are incredibly important for Diablo 2’s lore and also part of some of the most idiotic ideas its protagonists have (like the whole “trap Diablo in one oh whoops he keeps influencing and corrupting people next to it haha shouldn’t have kept it in a major population center then” thing). I have developed an entirely new ruleset for what they are and what they can do, but they will stay in the story.


New poo poo based on what you know already:
  • Branching of from the last point, soulstones (still looking for a name that’s less terrible than the one I already came up with: Magem) are now the base of the “magic system” because they allow you to manipulate a flow of souls surrounding everything. This flow is unbeknownst to everyone cause and object of the central conflict between “heaven” and “hell”, because…
  • Those two are now actual physical locations (like they already WERE in Diablo 2 but...they never really said where they are and how you can just go there?): twin moons in the sky. They’re made of soulstones and gather a huge concentration of free souls. Most are mindless “soul stuff” flowing freely, but some keep a personality attached after death down on the planet, and form the “citizens” of hell and heaven. There’s therefore societies up there who consist of beings made of souls which can dip freely into the flow, making them super powerful as long as enough soulstones are around, which is the case on the moons. On the planets, every human with a soulstone can use the same powers, they’re just less used to it and understand it only barely.
  • The Golem used to change form with every Act, from Clay to Blood to Iron to Fire to a mix of all, with the first four being canon. I’m gonna keep it similar but loosen up on the blood thing (that was always pretty hard to write for), rethink the iron (I think I want to limit golem material to organic only, makes more sense with the whole new soul-based magic) and nix the fire. That’s a bit up for change.
  • Necromancer had a small romantic subplot with the hot assassin babe in Act 3 (I personally don’t actually find her hot). This’ll stay in but he’s gay now. No specific reason, I just want to write a gay character.
  • I’m pruning the four lesser and three greater evils to five hell lords, and giving them five angelic counterparts. Will base them on sins and virtues, but not simply the classical ones (would have to be seven after all). A little more coherent than the original Hatred – Terror – Destruction of the Greater Evils. Though honestly I don’t yet know what I’ll do with the angels because only Tyrael did (insanely stupid) things in the original game and story. But I want to expand their role and establish the duality.
  • Speaking of, it’s very important now that both sides of the conflict are incredibly wrong about its origins, its stakes, the possibility of its resolution and how it should be led. In Diablo, the angels (especially Tyrael) are sometimes misguided, but always very much The Good Guys and hell is Obviously Evil. I’m not gonna go all “truth is in the middle” here, hell is still Obviously Evil, but not ALL of them and how heaven is going about things is completely wrong because of ignorance.

I’m keeping mum on details because a) they’re not fixed yet b) many of them won’t be mentioned in the actual story (see worldbuilding) and c) I don’t want to bore you guys to tears with just jotting down all my preliminary documents.


The Process

And this is how I’m doing the rewriting work so far: based on my thoughts outlined above (what to keep, what to replace), I’m writing a general outline of what has to happen physically. That means places the heroes go to, big fights they fight (and win), NPCs they meet, people who die. That’s just a single page for Act 1 so far because Diablo 2’s Act 1 is pretty good at just being a blank slate with the bigger story not hitting quite yet, and I’m keeping that.
What I’m keeping absolutely open is what’s going to happen mentally. This means the journey of the Golem to become a person, the journey of the Necromancer to be less of an rear end in a top hat, the development of their friendship and of their values. Especially for Act 1 I need to start and progress completely differently as what I originally wrote is plain wrong considering what I ended up with, so this is even vaguer.
If you’re taking away from this that I don’t have much respect from my original material, that’s half true: I think Act 1 is trash due to my age when it was written and due to its age relative to the story, when so many of the concepts were half-baked at best. However, I respect my growth as an author, and I have proof for myself of it happening, because I did re-read Act 2 in its entirety. It was very very interesting and a great experience, because I can tell pretty much chapter by chapter where I start giving a poo poo and believing that this is something. I see the slavish dedication to the game’s “realities” of looting and grinding slowly vanish, I already spot the first retcons of Act 1’s nonsense, and I see the firsts tentative experiments with form and style…fail but show promise.
I wrote a summary of the main plot points because I had forgotten a lot after a decade of not looking at it (in fact, I had never looked at it – see the “no editing done, ever” point). I noted which of those points I still like and which I consider mistakes to avoid; I extended this to style and language choices when opportune. I paid special attention to the Golem’s character development to see where I want to end Act 1 with, and how I might get there.
And finally, because I’m a goon and wanted to open this thread eventually, I made a separate file called GOODASS QUOTES where I collected the worst poo poo I wrote to laugh at.


After all of this, I started writing, because I feel I’ve done enough already and if I don’t start at some point, I will get super tired of the whole “work” aspect of this and never begin. Also, a lot of this stuff is fluid until I develop things naturally, so I can’t actually put it black on white before knowing where I want to go. I also knew that redoing the “Golem wakes up” chapter would be the most demanding hurdle because a lot depends on that being good, but once I convinced myself that I could and probably would just rewrite all of it later based on later stuff and that’s fine because it’s no longer published immediately, I just did it and got eight pages of two chapters already. I’d have done more but decided to open the thread first!
I’m going to leave it at this now because the two posts are nine pages already. I got the following material I could share and would like to hear your interest:
  • Said quotes from Act 2
  • A more detailed analysis/critique of my old material
  • The plan for Act 1
  • The first two chapters of Act 1 (very rough draft ofc, but I’d give them another pass before posting)
I’m also happy to answer any questions you got or clarify any points I was (too) vague on!
And again, if you got your own story about stories to share, please do! If you’ve done this before, I’d be super into learning about your process .

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Disappointed the thread isn't called "Stay awhile, and listen".

Interested to see where this goes, though.

Not related to your fic, I just found this amazing... thing... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HfmB4r2Fco

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


SHTAY A WHILE, AND LISHEN

I might change the title if you don't mind op

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Haha I guess that's also a very good fit especially considering how wordy I am. Do it (formatting up to you)!

I'm off to bed now but will put out some content tomorrow. I think I'll start with something rather obviously juicy: my freshly-written probably overwrought as gently caress new first chapter compared to the very first old one. Excited to see that one again, it's really been forever.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

I never played Diablo and I admittedly skimmed some parts of the OP, but posting so I don't forget to check up on your progress in this thread

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Blast from the past – the first first chapter

tl;dr: If you only want to read the new stuff, Ctrl+F to “The Rewrite” and skip all the analysis of the old poo poo.
I’m first going to give you the text transliterated from German as best as I can, then I’m gonna talk about how I feel about it.

The story is called Ich denke, also bin ich (I think, therefore I am), Act 1 is called Tönerne Taufe (baptism in clay) and Chapter 1 simply “Birth”.

quote:

A picture appears.
A figure, big and thin.
Two columns, the rest of the construct on top. Two protrusions, one with a short wand, the other with a round object.
Various parts that hang down the figure and clearly don’t fit perfectly.
Slow movement is noticed, a lifting and lowering of the middle part and a faint trembling of the protrusions.
Weak sounds from all sides. Quiet whispering in the surroundings, similar, but rougher, from the figure.

Confusion.

Questions, that come up, concepts rather, principles, than articulated words.

What is this?
Why does this happen?
Who is thinking this at the moment?


A sound source rings out.

“Hey, would you kindly get a move on!” [tn: this is very rude in the original German]

You? [tn: different case in German, so this is not a repeat] You? ME? Instantly the void fills with meaning. Words, for which one didn’t even know the definition before, let alone of their existence, attack the vast emptiness. The meaning of the words, yes, the things that were said [ed. comm.: there is no emphasis in the original but I think it’s meant to read as “I understand now that the sound is language”], find their place.
Before me stands a human.

This human, the source of the sound, is male, has white, long hair that fall in a ponytail onto his shoulders.
More and more my knowledge of words fills up. Knowing singular definitions is nothing knew for me anymore.
The face of the human is pale. Sunken cheeks have high bones. The brow is high [tn: this is not meant as a pun, there is no such thing is “high-brow” in German], the nose long and slightly crooked.
In his left hand he holds a bone wand, in his right a shield.
The parts that don’t quite fit him are pieces of equipment. A helmet, an armor, leather boots, gloves.

And the ultimate, the most important new realization becomes crystal clear as the fundamental maxim of my new
………. [tn: yes, ten, I counted]
Life?


This is my Master. [ed. comm.: the German forum allowed for it, so just imagine this text of twice the size and centered]


Comments and critique

I need to preface this by explaining the timeline: I re-read Act 2 before starting to write the new version, wrote two chapters of that, then made the OP, then re-read Act 1, Chapter 1 for this post. So if I’m saying “in the new version…”, it’s already written, and without having consulted the original first because I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Now onto the actual critique.
I think the most surprising thing to me is how much emphasis I put on the words and definitions thing, rather than the “oh poo poo, I exist part”. I feel like that would deserve more emphasis (and in the new version, it gets that). Something that’s not surprising is how much I focus on clothing and looks, but it still jumps out. As I wrote very close to the game, describing the “starting equipment” is essential to allow for future upgrades, and of course I “needed” to emphasize that my Necromancer’s design is very similar to its ingame look of gaunt, long white hair, to make the reader go “okay, I know how he looks because I played as him a bunch” and save on details. Obviously, now I know that all of those details (cheeks, nose, brow…) are not actually necessary to know and it’s perfectly fine to have the reader fill in the blanks.

When starting out, I wanted to base the Necromancer on myself, what would be considered a classical self-insert in today’s terminology. Even during my teenage days, I was aware of some of my personality flaws (arrogance is a big one) and wanted to poke fun at them, though, so I don’t consider him an idealized Mary Sue type character in retrospect – he is meant to have flaws from the start, and have my flaws. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly, though, and made him his own thing really soon, but it’ll be apparent in the first few chapters of Act 1 that he has traits of myself. For this first one, the most obvious thing is that he’s left-handed, a fact that I’m pretty sure I conveniently forgot and/or never made into a plot-relevant thing later. He’s also meant to be 16 like I was, which obviously doesn’t fit with the desiccated old guy appearance from the game, and I rather desperately tried to make the two things fit together. I would later make the white hair into an important plot point, and thus it also stays in the new design, but he’s older now (not 29 like I am currently, though, rather 20), doesn’t have the ridiculous ponytail and he’s actually rather fit instead of wiry and weak.

The actual progression of the writing in this chapter is something I cared a lot about when writing it, something I remember very clearly – in fact, I remember a surprising amount of things I thought about when writing the original even now, like entire sentences immediately take me back to how I agonized over how to make them “sing”. So I think I can comment on that rather well-informed, which is good.
It is done very clumsily because I was just not that good with language, and I hope I brought that over to the transliteration well with the overuse of passive voice (you don’t really do that often in good literary German as well), but I made very sure that the Golem doesn’t use “I” or “me” before the Necromancer addresses him directly and he realizes that he is a person. Similarly, I very pointedly avoid talking about “life”, choosing “existence” instead, before he thinks about it. However, that he thinks about it already at the end of the very first chapter is a disaster which would bite me in the rear end severely later on, but I couldn’t redo it as it was online already and I loathed the idea of stealthily editing lines a bunch of people had already read. The Golem should struggle with the idea of being alive, should have both his master and himself (that’s a huge thing, not just self-doubts, but I won’t get into it right now) constantly lead him to question his assumption that he deserves to be a person.
Another thing I really don’t like is that his first mention of life is conflated with the “master” thing, which is given more importance as the final, big line and thus overshadows it. It makes sense because I initially wanted the Golem seeing the Necromancer as the Master part of his summoning spell, something intrinsic to his nature which he would slowly have to overcome, but that produced a LOT of problems down the line when I thought more about what I wanted him to be, how he fit into a bigger story I was developing around and beyond the game’s meager offerings, and for the remake, I’m completely dropping that. Instead, the Necromancer declares himself “master”, the Golem accepts that gladly to have some sense and guidance in his racing, confused thoughts, then slowly becomes aware that he needs more from “life” and begins to question if he needs to be a slave.
Overall, stuff like this is why I don’t consider Act 1 to be a very good base to start with, and why I don’t really want to re-read it as inspiration: almost all of the early characterization clashes catastrophically with how the characters would later turn out and ignores backstory to them I simply hadn’t even thought of yet.


The Rewrite

So, to compare and contrast, 13 years later, my new attempt at the first chapter. This will probably change a lot as I develop the new characters further and have to “retcon” stuff to fit my new mythology, but it’s a good baseline to just get started with and I’m happy to be “done with it”, so to speak. Writing on is going to be far easier now that the first step is done and I don’t dread the “responsibility” of having to write the insanely impactful and important “waking up to a new life” part super well.

quote:

Chapter 1 [untitled so far]

At once, everything.

A sudden picture. Light in the center, dark on the edges. Frayed edges. Irregular columns, left, right and in front. Behind, long thin objects cutting through grey above, dark green below.

The center column shifts. As movement enters the picture, the moment is no longer timeless. A sense of unease begins to mount. Something needs to happen. The equilibrium is broken, but what will happen as a result? And is the action still held back, is it...waiting?

Can the picture itself answer these questions, closing in like the edges of the frame? Is there something important in it?

Distance comes to mind. The brown pillars connecting rolling green and churning grey: in the background.
Unimportant.
The off-white columns left and right: blending into the periphery. Unimportant.
Directly in front: the center column. Very intricate. Complicated, confusing. Has moved.
Very important.

Focus. One aspect of the picture needs special study. The center juts forward, the edges soften, the distance blurs. A figure, extending downward from the viewpoint. Blank mass of tangles on top, somewhat darker smooth surface below. Twin rings of white surrounding rings of color surrounding black circles. An outcropping protruding even more into the foreground. Thin line separating the upper structure horizontally. The smooth surface ends, replaced by fabric. As the focus point wanders downward, the layers become hard to keep track of, the silhouette widens, the growing sense of urgency starts to become unbearable.

What is the picture?

And finally, the correct question has been asked. A desire for definition has been stated. Curiosity has entered the picture - and, miraculously, it is sated.
Violently.
Names, concepts, relations and explanations come crashing in. The mind instantly drowns and suffocates in the overabundance of raw knowledge that has been unleashed. For the eternity of a fraction of a second, the tiny spark, the mere possibility of a flame, lies extinguished.
It is dead…
And then it lives again.
The overwhelming need to be, to do, the urgency that asked the hazardous question in the first place, wrenches the budding mind firmly into reality. And there, with knowledge married to understanding, can things start making sense.

The picture is of a forest, trees with slim branches propping up a sky covered in clouds. Grass, moss and fallen leaves cover the ground up to a few steps away, where the soil is exposed. Roots, it is roots framing the scene! Held up by…
Still unimportant.

The figure.

A human. Dirt staining snow-white hair, sweatdrops beading smooth face, gambeson armoring thin torso. Leather gloves, woolen pants, simple shoes.

Mouth pressed shut, leaning back, staring intently back at the focus point’s origin.

Who is he looking at?

Everything snaps to a standstill. Motion forgotten, the concept of time erased, the clock turned back so far that it itself ceased being. The question of “what” which gave the world meaning almost destroyed it with the force of its revelations.
It is nothing compared to “who”.

An eternity of reevaluation passes in the span of no time at all. And the question finally receives an answer.

He is looking...at me.

A being that is I. I have thoughts. Thoughts that allow me to interact with the sea of knowledge, drink from it as I choose, give it meaning. And thus, another dimension of the picture is unlocked. Is it the final one?
I seem to be standing under an uprooted tree trunk, in the ditch left by it. Considering this height difference, where I am looking from should be about the same distance from the ground the human’s eyes are. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that I am humanoid myself. Two other humanoids are standing left and right from me and holding the tree trunk tilted upright, so it is possible that I was buried underneath it and just unearthed.
On the other hand, a somewhat unlikely scenario, as the trunk seems heavy, probably fit rather well into the ditch, and thus I would have not survived well with it on me.
But wait, this relies on an assumption I cannot make without evidence: that I am human. As far as I know, humans do not suddenly spring into existence fully conscious. Also, the two figures keeping me from being crushed (again?) are not human either. I might therefore be similar to them: devoid of skin and flesh and organs, just a skeleton.
There is something not quite right there, but...my mind is going over too many things at once now that it allowed itself to do so. Among the chaos, one last pressing question keeps demanding my fullest attention above all, so I try to address it.

Why is the human here?

I look deeply into his face, the wide eyes, the slowly opening mouth, as he takes a full step back, finally finishing the motion he began to start this journey. Can I analyze his motivations by thinking about what he... feels?
Oh dear.
I shouldn’t have asked the last question.


Comments
Compared to the original, it’s super interesting that without reading it, I still settled on the “questions asked by the Golem lead to revelations from within him” format, but greatly expanded. I also kept but expanded upon the “picture” image, which I really like and in fact kept as the first sentence of every original Act. I also kept the columns/pillars thing to describe human shapes (maybe that’s a little clumsy but idk). I think I managed to keep the “doesn’t call himself an I until he asks the right question” fairly well and natural this time. I added another wrinkle: until he discovers that he has emotions, he doesn’t use contractions. That makes the final paragraph before the “why” question a little dry, which is intentional but might still make for bad reading, I think I’ll redo that one after shaking off more rust and settling on a new, mature style a few (hundred) pages in from now.
Generally, the Golem is meant to be very analytical though, on one hand because that’s how I write and think myself, on the other hand because it makes sense for him to be and because it is his main “weapon” against an uncaring world. After all, he ONLY has his thoughts to work with for a good long while. So there’s going to be a lot of introspection, a lot of careful evaluation, recontextualizing with new information and so on.

I deliberately left out a lot of details about the Necromancer's appearance this time, I'd like to hear if what I describe is enough to make you get a picture. And if it's too clumsy to e.g. describe his eyes but leave out their color; I wanted to have this be a little weird to emphasize the "alien" thoughts of the Golem who doesn't quite put the same values on the same details as humans do, but maybe that's too subtle/too weird/too obvious, hard to say.

Oh, and I'm suuuper not sure about the "gambeson" thing. I had to google that and don't want to have people stumble over that and google themselves when they read it. It would make sense for the Golem to have it in his "vocabulary", but just because it makes sense in-universe doesn't mean it makes for good writing...

I’ll leave it at that and up for critique now. Thanks for your attention!

Simply Simon fucked around with this message at Dec 27, 2018 around 11:40

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


You’re not very good motivation if you don’t comment on my thread, people . But I didn’t get much work done over the holidays anyway, now that routine is setting in again, I freshly appreciate the evening hours with a cup of tea and a to-be-filled document in front of me.
As I said before, I don’t want to simply post everything I’m freshly writing, rather contrast it with the old stuff, sometimes more directly if I’m drawing direct inspiration, sometimes talking about broader strokes. As I’m dead-set against reading too much of Act 1 for fear of disgusting myself with myself, it’s gotta be the latter for a while.

Today I’d like to muse about fight scenes. Because Diablo 2 consists pretty much entirely of fighting a never-ending stream of demons, I wrote a lot of fight scenes, which are admittedly really fun to me. I suspect that at least a third of my early chapters contain a fight (if someone is really interested, I could count I guess), sometimes quickly wrapped up, sometimes spanning multiple chapters. I was dead-set initially to cover every unique boss monster, and to depict every “classic” situation in the game as well: the first time you get frustrated with a Fallen Shaman resurrecting its servants over and over again, the pang of guilt you might feel for killing “evil” (or mind-controlled, or corrupted?) humans, the panic you feel when you realize that ghost-type enemies can drain your mana.
I was really into the game back then, so I knew a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, like for example that every area can only have three enemy types in it at the same time, which would often be randomly chosen among a pool of five or so possibilities. I decided to stick to that rule for ~realism~, which almost never meant that I would just omit a monster type; of course not, I wanted to write about all of those fights!!! Instead, I planned out that they had to fight the lich enemies in this area, because then I could leave them out in the next area, and write about frog demons instead, which could not spawn in the first area. I think I gave myself a brain disorder when I first discovered the internet.

In retrospect, this means that the pacing used to be hosed. There would be a short chapter of the characters developing for a brief moment, interacting with the “NPCs” for a few lines, which I kind of hated to write, then they’d be off, travel to the next location on the list, and get to the fights I wanted them to have and actually wanted to write. Fortunately, very much so, I started to get sick of that eventually and finally cut out some of the monster types, decided that there just would not be another encounter with skeletons-but-green-this-time unless they were unique in some way and bring anything new to the table, and made the fights more meaningful.
The characters also started to grow on me more, and I stopped hating the between-fights moments. And finally, in the end, I enjoyed writing character interactions more than fight scenes. Though I think I’ve reached a pretty happy balance there: the action is still really fun to write, but a good talky bit gives me a deeper feeling of satisfaction for having written something impactful.

For the new story, I intend to cut 90% of the “random” fights. All those moments where they just encounter an enemy because “that’s what you fight here!” should be gone because they add nothing. This will still leave a lot of action, because that’s a big part of what I want the story to be: it should be entertaining first and foremost, for all the waxing I did about characters and their interactions. This poo poo needs to be fun. So there will be big dumb fantasy battles with skeletons and demons squaring off. It just won’t be ALL of that ALL the time. The Golem needs to fight just enough to be thoroughly sick of being used as a weapon, nothing more and nothing less; I hope to tread that thin line well, but I suspect that if someone with editing chops takes a look at the whole story at the end, they might say “this, this and this fight are completely superfluous, kill the pacing and need to go”, and that they will be right. Can’t really know from the get-go, though, so write the fights I will.

To give you content beyond this, I’d like to present you the first fight scene of the new story. If someone is actually reading this and wants to see it, give me a holler and I will read the first fight scene of the old story and contrast it itt. I won’t bother if nobody cares .

I skipped three pages from the end of the last chapter to the beginning of this one with more Golem-finds-out-about-himself and musings-during-travel stuff. I think it’s not necessary for the fight itself.

quote:

A swirling mass of bodies and what’s usually hidden by their fleshy outside, running here and there, trying to gain a hill that is well defended, but struggling. The top is obscured from here, but one can see sharpened stakes jutting out to prevent even the most adventurous of monsters from trying to scale it, so they try for the main entrance. Even that is up a winding path currently blocked by some boulders that were hastily rolled onto it. Behind those rocks, and behind wooden palisades further up, the defenders, mostly human women, make their stand.

A stumbling abomination decides to try its luck. On elongated, too thin seeming limbs, sometimes on two sometimes four, it clambers over the obstacles, occasionally jumping, but mostly lurching. Its fur is already speckled with blood, but it might not be its own. Only when I study the madly rolling eyes and the foaming muzzle a little closer do I realize that this might have been a deer once.

It has almost reached one of the few male defenders, who stands brave but trembling with a sword drawn, awaiting almost certain death to this monster whose movements he cannot being to comprehend, let alone predict.

But someone can. One of the women draws a circle in the air with an extended finger on her contorted hand, and the tip is followed by a glowing trace. As the blue light closes to form a shining disk, some force emanating from it makes her headscarf billow away from her face. It shows a weary but concentrated expression, and breaks open in a loud shout as she pushes with an open palm against the glowing disk.
A thin ray of light emits from its center, its brilliance momentarily dampening the colors around it, and hits the deer demon straight in the head. These women are thaumaturges, wielding the holy magic of Elysium!

The demon collapses less than a meter away from the swordsman. He breathes a heavy sigh of relief, when a call of “behind you” reaches him half a second too late, and a skeleton wielding a rusty saber ends his life messily.

Two others crowd the magic user.

“What on Limbo are you waiting for? Save her!”

With the master’s chiding yell, I snap back into awareness. I was overwhelmed for the second time in my existence by a picture too grand to comprehend at first, and as I begin a sprint at full speed, a desperate hope blooms in me that this mistake does not cost the thaumaturge her life.

To defend herself, she opts for more direct methods. Clenches her hand, causing the blue rays of light to emit from between her fingers now. I see now that she holds a Magem strapped to her wrist with a golden chain. Elysian magic channeled by the stone envelops her fist, and in one motion, ducking under the clumsy swing of a club wielded by fleshless fingers, she punches her foe’s jaw cleanly off. The awesome force behind her attack whisks the skeleton away to crumble in a pile a good distance away.

But now she is defenseless to the second one, which lifts its weapon…no! I am running at the highest speed I can muster, but I am just too late! In desperation I try to somehow move my legs even quicker, but instead I slip on some leaves, and tumble helplessly as the sword descends on her, cleaves the cloth she wears open and her back beneath as well. She cries out in pain which feels like it pierces my midsection, and I feel guilt for the first time.

She is still alive! The bone horror mercilessly prepares another strike, its arm poised way behind its back in what will be a killing strike for sure once it connects.

I lunge forward on my knees, my arm shoots up, and I manage to grab the skeleton’s wrist. With no way to gauge its strength, I prepare for a struggle...which does not come. For a second, my enemy tries to escape my grasp, but maybe I have a better angle, it cannot break free. I wonder what to do next – punch it? Before I can formulate a plan, its skull snaps back, impacting my face with a dull thud. In surprise, I let go of its arm, it twirls around with surprising speed, and its weapon flies towards my face.

Out of a reflex I didn’t know I had, I do indeed punch with even more surprising speed, my fist connects and shatters its skull in a million tiny pieces.

I stand dumbfounded as it collapses dead again. My vision focuses on the clay battering ram I just used. Bone shards are embedded in it, which doesn’t cause me to feel any discomfort. Am I a weapon?

“Ah!”, interrupts a panicked gasp my untimely moment of contemplation. The holy woman has managed to rise onto one knee despite blood flowing freely from her back wound, only to come face to face with yet another skeleton. No! It’s missing a jaw - her previous victim? Resurrected, again? How can we win, then?


Not again will I allow her to get hurt! I rush forward…
“Stop, Golem! That one is mine now!”

Resurrected by the master! Of course! I stop.

Ah!”, panicked again but a scream now. That poor woman! But she is safe now, so hopefully her terror will soon…

A glowing fist impacts my gut, and this I do feel. It lodges there for a moment as her defiant expression crumbles upon the realization this I am not really hurt.

“That one is also mine!”, the master screams. Oh dear, oh dear, this is a disaster. We should be helping these people, but using skeletons on our own, and...something possibly even more monstrous, myself? Can she be blamed for her confusion? What should I do?

Very gently and slowly I reach down, hand kept open all the time, until I touch the woman’s wrist. She practically snarls at me, but the fight has left her, the wound definitely not helping. I wrap my fingers around the base of her hand, very very carefully attempting to use the least amount of pressure necessary, and remove it from myself with a squelching sound.

She wrests it away lightning-quick and almost falls over from the force, which wouldn’t be good. The master catches her.

“I’ll help you get patched up! Golem, join the fight! Defend the camp!”

Gladly! I won’t let them down again! I see that in the fray that is now a few meters below me, our force of two and one extra skeletons has managed to cause even more chaos, fortunately aiding the human side. One has obtained a weapon and slices up a deer demon that’s held down by another. As soon as the monster huffs its last, however, the unarmed skeleton is crushed by...one and a half bears? I do not want to closer contemplate the exact conditions of its conjoinment. It roargurgles, one set of eyes locked onto its target, the hilly encampment of the warrior women, but then spots me with another bloodshot orb and, without turning, speaks from a sideways split muzzle.

“Are you reinforcement?”

Well…yes! I nod. The troubled but possibly female voice manages to sound satisfied. “Then let us crush the last of the Elysian sisters! Already their defense falters – soon, Chthon will reign here in the blood-soaked forest!”

I study her for a moment. The legs she lumbers upright on seem the least twisted of the nightmare body, giving her a somewhat steady height of at least two meters and fourty-eight centimeters. Three massive arms with paws of varying sizes, one definitely a little crippled. The faces, out of reach…as the difficulty of my so lightly decided-upon task to bring down this abomination hits me, something twists in my midsection where previously guilt nested. The feeling expands rapidly outward to wrest paralyzing control of my limbs, and suddenly I realize that fear has taken a terrible hold of me.

But why? I am here to defend the camp per the master’s orders, from this self-declared threat. My orders couldn’t be clearer, and I am uniquely suited to carry them out due to my design as a weapon, with considerable strength and durability far exceeding that of regular humans. Additionally, because of my ability to formulate complex thoughts, I have rapidly come up with a ruse to give me a golden opportunity to strike first.

And yet…fear. Not only that, I’m terrified, and it takes me a few precious seconds to claw myself out from the grip of this awful emotion that has by now not only infested my body, but also my thoughts. Fortunately, I am experienced by now at overcoming self-inflicted confusion at least for long enough to analyze its source. And it is this: I do not want to die.

This makes no sense. How can I even think of death, when I am not alive? An undead servant barely above a skeleton…

One of these, one of ours, approaches the bear monster, lifting a weapon in its bony grip, and as the furred absurdity spins around, its peripheral vision too extended to sneak up on, I realize I need a decision.

It is made.

A quick two steps take me close enough, I put the speed and force of my movement into my attack in one fluid motion, and ram a fist into the bear’s back of the knee.

I feel skin part beneath my knuckles which get drenched in blood immediately as ligaments burst. My backstabbed opponent’s attack on the skeleton whiffs completely as she topples backwards in a yell of pained outrage. A weird pang of guilt hits me; did I not just betray an intelligent being’s trust? I fight the emotion with logic: she is a monster on a mission to slaughter humans and surely deserves what is about to happen to her. And yet, I cannot stop myself from trying to mouth “sorry” when my interlocked hands descend upon her skull lying powerless beneath me.

As bone and brain splatter while the skeleton contributes wild slashes on the torso, I realize I do not have a mouth to attempt even poor imitations of words with.

The aftermath, as blood drips off my smooth skin easily, allows me to understand at least one component of my guilt. I feel that the ruse shouldn’t have come to me so quickly. That I do not want to think of myself as a guileful creature. But why? How did this idea enter the mind of a mere servant construct, a weapon of war to be pointed at the enemy?

Speaking of…oh, never mind. It appears we have won. Holy bolts of light pick up the final stragglers among the demons, I am not needed in the fight anymore. Absent-mindedly, I pick up some fallen leaves to clean myself. After a few seconds, however, my efforts are thwarted as a shower of gore erupts from the former bears corpse. Alarmed, I look around me, and spot the master close by with a strained expression on his face as he clutches his Magem. First one, then a second human-shaped skeleton claw themselves out of the ruptured remains.

“Elysium! That was worth it, I’d say. Absolutely impressive.”

He kicks what’s left of the mess in front of me. “Really thought you’d get ripped apart by this thing. Glad it worked out, keep it up. Now finish cleaning, then follow me, I have nuns to talk to.”

I restart my efforts and try to concentrate on getting the task done efficiently and quickly. Yet, I cannot shake a certain resentment encroaching on my turbulent thoughts, and frustratingly, I am unable this time to identify its source.

Simply Simon fucked around with this message at Jan 8, 2019 around 19:27

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I think you could do with focusing on how you format your writing - there's a lot of long, comma divided, sentences and no paragraphs. That makes for a difficult wall of text, and the eye just kind of slides off after a bit.

Writing-wise, I think there's just too much of it. Too wordy, too detail-focused. Take the first chunk:

quote:

A swirling mass of bodies and what’s usually hidden by their fleshy outside, running here and there, trying to gain a hill that is well defended, but struggling. The top is obscured from here, but one can see sharpened stakes jutting out to prevent even the most adventurous of monsters from trying to scale it, so they try for the main entrance. Even that is up a winding path currently blocked by some boulders that were hastily rolled onto it. Behind those rocks, and behind wooden palisades further up, the defenders, mostly human women, make their stand.
You just don't need all that detail, and it actually makes the important bits harder to pick out. I reckon you could easilt hack it down to

quote:

A swirling mass of bodies struggling to gain a well-defended hill. They swarm up a winding path part-blocked by boulders. Behind those rocks, and behind wooden palisades further up, the defenders make their stand.
Simpler, faster to read, and lets you get to the (emotionally) important bits without getting bogged down.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Sorry about the formatting, I had forgotten that for the first chapter, I had added a lot of linebreaks manually. I looks way better in the Word document, but that really doesn't translate well to forums. Should I also keep it out of quote tags? Any better way to post writing on here than just c&p?

As for the wordiness, I realize that is a huge problem I have, it has also been pointed out before with some samples I posted in the chat thread. I will focus on that specifically as I write further, and go back to what I have posted here already trying to prune it. Your example is good already - I think "the important bits" is a key point. I should identify those and discard the rest, and not write "the rest" in the future.

I think here's where the fanfiction past bites me in the rear end the most - I've written the original over ten years and have gotten constructive feedback, like, once per year. Actually, I didn't get much feedback at all especially as the forum kept dying. That makes bad habits well ingrained. But here's to the challenge! And after all, getting rid of all the useless stuff means I have to write way less, no?

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



True dat. Thunderdome might be a good way of sharpening your writing with a hard word limit to guide you, if you're up for extra writing?

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Read more, write less, close thread .

I guess the next thunderdome opens next week? My first chapter alone is almost 1000 words and I wrote that in an afternoon, so yeah sure might be a good idea.

Siegkrow
Oct 11, 2013

Time is a flat circle. Everything we've ever argued about or will argue about, we're going to argue about over and over and over again.


So I read the OP and skipped the rest (which I'll read over the next few minutes but if I didn't post this I'd forget)
One of the first good tips I got about writing (which hasn't done poo poo for me because reasons) is to Write What You Know. You a Chemistry nerd? Good, make Chemistry a key part of the magic system of the setting.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Siegkrow posted:

So I read the OP and skipped the rest (which I'll read over the next few minutes but if I didn't post this I'd forget)
One of the first good tips I got about writing (which hasn't done poo poo for me because reasons) is to Write What You Know. You a Chemistry nerd? Good, make Chemistry a key part of the magic system of the setting.

Thanks for the read!

I'll actually veto your suggestion for multiple reasons. First of all, Chemistry is my job, and in a way my passion because you can't be a Chemist without on some level loving it, but I don't need every facet of my life to be about Chemistry. In fact, most of what I'm doing in my job is looking at insanely complicated and boring reaction steps, so if I put something like that into my magic, it will be the absolute worst to read about.

Most "standard" Chemistry kind of bores me, that's why I'm into the nitty-gritty-poo poo. I think I'm the only person in the whole world who started studying Chemistry without being into explosions OR drugs, I just want to know how things work on a fundamental level.

Secondly, I loathe reading about over-detailed magic systems, it just seems so technical and superfluous for a good story to me. For example, I quite liked Brian Sanderson's Mistborn series, but could not stand his rules for magic which were metal-based, and every metal did something different, and you had to swallow metal pills to draw on their powers, and people were good at different metals, and ugh. So many words wasted on that.

It's also something I shy away from personally because I could be writing about something in ludicrous detail and develop a system that is Perfectly Logical, but that's something I thought would be SO GOOD as a kid, and I don't think it's good writing at all. A magic system is always going to clash with science at some point, I feel that it's completely arbitrary to make the magic follow the rules of nature up to THIS point and not up to THAT point. I'm going to try not to violate conservation of energy and mass too too much, but I'm not going to do the calculations while writing, that's absurd.

Imagine for example a standard fireball spell: where's the heat coming from? You can't generate energy, so it's gotta be taken from somewhere. Do I always write "oh yeah, the mystic force is cooling off the surroundings in a 10-meter-radius just a little so the fireball can gather that heat at one point", or just say "I use magic to cast fire"? My problem is too many words, not too little.


I mean, I might be completely wrong in my thinking, that's why I'm putting it down in so many words so you can argue against it if you want, but that's my thoughts on the matter. I do have a bunch of rules set in the background I won't talk about in the story, but which I'll use to keep things consistent, but for magic they're probably the loosest, because the story isn't really about the magic - it's more about the tools people use for magic, and they deliberately don't understand how they work.

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013


Crit chapter 1

Chapter 1 [untitled so far]

At once, everything.

A sudden picture. Light in the center, dark on the edges. Frayed edges. Irregular columns, left, right and in front. Behind, long thin objects cutting through grey above, dark green below. To be honest, I can't picture this at all and I'm usually very strong at visualizing stories in my head. That can be okay, but as the very first image in your story I feel like going abstract like this is a little weak.

The center column shifts. As movement enters the picture, the moment is no longer timeless. A sense of unease begins to mount. I get what you're trying to say here, like in "a mounting tension" but the use of the verb like that sounds strange to me. Checking wiktionary for "mount" and "mounting" it looks like using the verb form that way is technically correct but not really in common usage anymore. Something needs to happen. The equilibrium is broken, but what will happen as a result? And is the action still held back, is it...waiting? Comma splices can be acceptable for the sake of voice but this one distracted me.

Can the picture itself answer these questions, closing in like the edges of the frame? Is there something important in it? This means nothing to me.

Distance comes to mind. Whose mind? Is this first person now? (edit: before the narrator realizes it, at least) The brown pillars connecting rolling green and churning grey: in the background. Again, fragments are more than welcome in prose, but this sentence structure brought me out of it.
Unimportant.
The off-white columns left and right: blending into the periphery. Unimportant. Why is this the only "important" that's not in a new line?
Directly in front: the center column. Very intricate. Complicated, confusing. Has moved.
Very important.
You have to decide whether you want these on different paragraphs or not. Because right now you have 2 spaces between paragraphs, and then a handful of these single-spaced clumps that I don't even know what to call them. They are formatted like in-line poems or something but I don't think that's what you were going for.

Again, I'm having a hard time being invested in the actions of this super abstract scene, and I don't understand the the extent of how/why the movement is important

Focus. One aspect of the picture needs special study. The center juts forward, the edges soften, the distance blurs. A figure, extending downward from the viewpoint. Idk what this means. Do you mean vanishing point? Blank mass of tangles on top, somewhat darker smooth surface below. How can a mass of tangles be "blank"...? Twin rings of white surrounding rings of color surrounding black circles. An outcropping protruding even more into the foreground. Thin line separating the upper structure horizontally. The smooth surface ends, replaced by fabric. As the focus point wanders downward, the layers become hard to keep track of, the silhouette widens, the growing sense of urgency starts to become unbearable. I am not feeling the urgency. I am feeling mostly confused and straining my brain to put all these pieces together into a coherent image.

What is the picture?

And finally, the correct question has been asked. A desire for definition has been stated. Curiosity has entered the picture - and, miraculously, it is sated.
Violently.
Names, concepts, relations and explanations come crashing in. The mind instantly drowns and suffocates in the overabundance of raw knowledge that has been unleashed. For the eternity of a fraction of a second, the tiny spark, the mere possibility of a flame, lies extinguished.
It is dead…
And then it lives again.
The overwhelming need to be, to do, the urgency that asked the hazardous question in the first place, wrenches the budding mind firmly into reality. And there, with knowledge married to understanding, can things start making sense.

Saying stuff like "THE tiny spark" and "THE budding mind" about just-being-introduced concepts contributes a lot to the sense of confusion in this passage. Personally, when I read an intro like this, I'm mostly waiting for something concrete to latch onto, and I feel like most of the dramatic tension here is lost because I don't have that yet. The abundant use of passive voice here doesn't help the vagueness either.

The picture is of a forest, trees with slim branches propping up a sky covered in clouds. Grass, moss and fallen leaves cover the ground up to a few steps away, where the soil is exposed. Roots, it is roots framing the scene! Held up by…
Still unimportant.

The figure.

A human. Dirt staining snow-white hair, sweatdrops beading smooth face, gambeson armoring thin torso. Leather gloves, woolen pants, simple shoes.

Mouth pressed shut, leaning back, staring intently back at the focus point’s origin. I'm still not sure what this means.

Who is he looking at?

Everything snaps to a standstill. Motion forgotten, the concept of time erased, the clock turned back so far that it itself ceased being. The question of “what” which gave the world meaning almost destroyed it with the force of its revelations.
It is nothing compared to “who”.

An eternity of reevaluation passes in the span of no time at all. And the question finally receives an answer.

He is looking...at me.

A being that is I. I have thoughts. Thoughts that allow me to interact with the sea of knowledge, drink from it as I choose, give it meaning. And thus, another dimension of the picture is unlocked. Is it the final one?
I seem to be standing under an uprooted tree trunk, in the ditch left by it. Considering this height difference, where I am looking from should be about the same distance from the ground the human’s eyes are. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that I am humanoid myself. Two other humanoids are standing left and right from me and holding the tree trunk tilted upright, so it is possible that I was buried underneath it and just unearthed. This I like. As an opening scene, I like this image. It gives me a lot of questions but also a lot to latch onto, like "maybe he was just recently dead" which would also explain the trippy coming-(back?)-into-consciousness passage. It also gives the impression that something is happening/about to happen to this MC very soon, which makes me want to keep reading. I would honestly have preferred if this was much closer to the opening of the story though. I would maybe even entirely cut the first bit.
On the other hand, a somewhat unlikely scenario, as the trunk seems heavy, probably fit rather well into the ditch, and thus I would have not survived well with it on me.
But wait, this relies on an assumption I cannot make without evidence: that I am human. As far as I know, humans do not suddenly spring into existence fully conscious. Also, the two figures keeping me from being crushed (again?) are not human either. I might therefore be similar to them: devoid of skin and flesh and organs, just a skeleton.
There is something not quite right there, but...my mind is going over too many things at once now that it allowed itself to do so. Among the chaos, one last pressing question keeps demanding my fullest attention above all, so I try to address it.
Things are getting interesting here, though there's something holding it back and I think it may be your character's analysis of everything. Now, I love a good analytical character, especially in ontological-type stories in fantasy settings (Chronicles of Amber is good), but the stuff he's analyzing needs to be consistently engaging. I think you're probably spending too many words on the analysis, and your story would benefit from changing it to more of a, I know it sounds un-literature-like, but basically a rote list of what he is observing. I don't mean bullet points, but just to spend less words on his internal logic-ing and more on the actual concrete elements of the scene. You can use that to add more details and imagery too. Remember to apply the other senses besides sight (assuming this thing has other senses lol).

Why is the human here?

I look deeply into his face, the wide eyes, the slowly opening mouth, as he takes a full step back, finally finishing the motion he began to start this journey. Can I analyze his motivations by thinking about what he... feels?
Oh dear.
I shouldn’t have asked the last question. This is a fun chapter end, but it feels like you want me to be more amused by this than I am. The problem with that is I'm still not clear at all about what these questions have actually been... like... doing? I'm hoping this gets cleared up in the next chapter.


edit after fully reading your ch1 post: Yes I had to google gambeson.

Mr. Steak fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2019 around 07:58

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Thanks a lot for the in-depth crit! It's going to be very valuable, because the first chapter needs to be fantastic, obviously.

I found it very hard to bring across a sense of confusion and helplessness from the narrator, while also not confusing the reader too much, and it's great to hear that you were, in fact, confused, but not in a good way. I will try to address that.

Here is my general plan for this chapter, I think this might explain a lot of the choices; they might be very bad choices, but it's why I wrote like I wrote.

There are four revelations one after another, as the Golem slowly realizes he is a thinking and feeling being.
- Initially, he just sees. There is a big mess of colors and objects, and he has no way to determine what is worth focusing on.
- Something moves in the center of the picture, making him realize that some things are more important than others. He does start to focus his vision*

The next revelations are denoted by the questions he asks.

- WHAT? This gives him a "library" of words and definitions to use. I made sure to only use the most basic vocabulary before, now he is flooded with knowledge from...somewhere (that IS actually a huge spoiler). He discovers that he knows a lot about the world, actually.

- WHO? This makes him realize that he is a sentient being, who can think of himself as an "I". That's why I used passive voice before. This revelation gives everything a completely different context: trying to understand things is now important to HIM, not just out of a vague sense of "I should probably address this...everything".

- WHY? And finally, he realizes that he has feelings, and feelings make things complicated. He starts using contractions from now on and starts talking like an actual character.


I think this structure and buildup is generally sound, but I can easily weigh the different stages differently, and try to make it more engaging from the get-go. I'm thinking of including more feelings from the start, with him being more and more frustrated that he does not understand what the general sense of anxiety is until he realizes what feelings even are.


One other thing that is a problem is the analytical thinking. Let me come right out and say it: this is going to be the central issue with this entire project. It will almost entirely be written in a first-person present narrative from the viewpoint of the Golem, so I really only have his thoughts about the world to write, and in the original, he spent chapter after chapter just thinking about things, evaluating his conclusions, re-evaluating them, silently judging his master, debating his motivations, and so on - it was probably really dry (especially when I was starting out), and I really need to figure out a way to fix this.

Or rather, I'd like to be able to write in a somewhat dry, observational, navel-gazing style that is STILL engaging. That's the challenge. Because "the world filtered through newborn eyes" is one of THE central draws of the story, after all.

I was actually not sure if the very static analysis of the first chapter was too much, and I should listen to myself more, I guess. If I can tone that down so it's less obviously painful to read, then once he does warm up a little, it will be an acceptable "normal" tone for the story.

And yes, the final line was meant to "open" the tone a little, give a little reward to the reader after slogging through the paragraph of meticulous analysis.

You said you were interested in the next chapter, which makes me super happy, because that's one goal fulfilled at least (even if it's just in the context of this thread, probably not "if I had read this first chapter in a library, I'd be buying the book now"). I did skip the next scenes in order to get critique on the fight scene, but I will post it so you can "turn the page" and see if it gets better.

Not right now, because I got a plane to catch. But I'll get back at you! Thanks again!



*This is something I might talk about way later, as he finds out more about himself: he is in a magically created body that does not have to be ruled by natural laws at all, so he does not need to "focus his vision" because he doesn't have two working eyes with retinas an image gets projected on. However, he IS actually made from a human soul** (that is something of a spoiler but it's not meant as a super twist or anything, he just should not be aware of that for a long time), so it helps him immensely to treat things LIKE a human would. Including a central focus for an image.

**That's also why I call him unambiguously male.


EDIT: forgot to address at least one thing: the "blank mass" is the Necromancer's hair. I wanted to avoid repetition of "white" with his eyes soon after. It's bad.

Simply Simon fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2019 around 13:38

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


I decided to make things a little easier on myself and will just give out the link to the Google Doc for my First Draft of this.

Contains the full first three chapters, I haven't done any editing work on the third yet, but honestly? I might just keep writing until I'm finished with a significant chunk, then go back with better practice, both here and in Thunderdome (which has indeed been quite helpful already) and give everything a full pass. This will also be able to tell me about pacing and structure issues, something I can only speculate about at the moment. I know the original's pacing was hosed three ways to Sunday, but that doesn't help me beyond "maybe write less irrelevant bullshit" .

I welcome any in-depth crits as they happen (thanks again onsetOutsider), and will respond gladly, and file them for later use in said editing pass. I'll also keep posting in here when I write more and when I have some concrete questions.

I hope that's a good compromise between spamming my own thread with just "hey I wrote a thing!!!" and "this will be a barren space for at least half a year until I finish a meaningful chunk", because I'm in no hurry. Also, it saves me from what I had to do for the original: put [i][/i] tags loving everywhere and driving me crazy.


EDIT: I've updated the link at the time of this edit, but I'll probably not continue to do so and only update the one in the OP. Reason for the link changing is that I'm writing offline most of the time and then upload the newest version, which makes it a new document.

Simply Simon fucked around with this message at Apr 3, 2019 around 17:12

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Alright, so I tried to write a bit more on my last plane ride, and ran into some issues, and after some thinking about it I think I know what they are and what I should do about it. If you want to see concrete examples, what I did write is uploaded.

So basically, the chapter will be about the Golem and his master fighting their first "boss" enemy in a graveyard, for the Diablo 2 veterans: this used to be Blood Raven. It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward fight scene, but I wanted to spice it up a little (and have it make more sense than just a random graveyard in the middle of nowhere), so there's now a church attached, and that church was destroyed by the demons, and a bunch of corpses lie there slaughtered to drive home that the demons are quite evil (I realize that this is quite redundant if you put it that way).

Problem 1: it's not a Christian church, so what symbol do they use instead of a cross? I just sat there for half an hour thinking about this tiny detail, and eventually just made up something (a moon and a wave) which might mean something or not, but it certainly doesn't to me.

Problem 2: the Golem sees a scene of wanton slaughter, dead children horribly mutilated, and just...narrates. It's how I've always written, but I realized while doing it that this clinical detachment might make sense on a very basic level (the Golem is still completely unused to interpreting the world), but it probably feels extremely off to any reader and makes him very unsympathetic. Also, it might only make sense in the broader context of the story if I specifically decide to twist it that way, and I'd only do that to justify it in retrospect, and that is a poor way to write.


I've analyzed both of those issues for myself and come to the conclusion that the approach I used to write so far simply doesn't work, which was to just have a rough idea of where the broader story would go and let "the characters fill in the blanks". Basically, I'd start with what I said at the beginning - graveyard fight, they win - and then make up situations which the characters react to. It's a very facile way to write a fanfiction narrative that has the broader plot already written, because I knew who all the big bosses were going to be, but it's going to result in a very, very bad novel. So I need to rethink it.


Thing is, I did a lot of prepwork for this, but at some point decided that this has to be enough worldbuilding (because I loathe that) and just started writing. It's good that I got off my rear end and made some words, but this isn't going to lead to a good product, and it's not something that can be fixed with an editing pass - the characters, their motivations, the themes of the story, all of that is just too nebulous at the moment and I cannot leave it up to almost random chance. To illustrate, see this passage from Chapter 3:


quote:

She snaps at him in righteous fury. “Do not get cocky with me, boy! If you actually made a living, thinking being, tinkered with soul magics like the ancient wizards, then I cannot protect you from anything! I should cleanse you with a holy ray right now and pray to all the archangels that your soul finds peace on Elysium despite everything!”
I feel like shuddering, but restrain myself. I did not realize how important it was for these people that I remain a tool and nothing more. For the sake of the master, I have to keep pretending!

I decided pretty much on the fly to make this the Golem's main motivation for not at some very early point sitting the master the gently caress down and making it crystal clear that he can in fact think for himself - he'll do it eventually, of course, but I thought adding a little bit of drama to that decision would make the story better. And maybe it will! But I haven't planned that! I've just written down that single bolded sentence, and decided that this is going to influence the next dunno ten chapters. And I cannot allow myself to do that.


I think I've come up with a solution for this, as I said. I need to step away from writing the story event-based (the fight this, go there, talk about that to this guy....), and plot with what I want to say first. The Golem's development is the centerpiece of the story, so I need to plan that out (and not the stupid fights), and then have whatever happens serve that development rather than base the development, on the fly, on what happens.

This way, my themes and ideas will become way clearer and allow me to start from a fixed framework that makes sense instead of having to awkwardly thread outside and inside developments together And avoid what used to be the case - basically one chapter of "Golem thinks hard about things" and three chapters of "they fight another monster mob".

And hopefully, because I will be thinking themes and meaning and symbolism first, the answer to "what should the church have on its tower" will come completely naturally. Because it will be something that makes sense for the entire story, and not for "that single faction they only interact with in Act 1 and which I spent way too much time thinking about". Because I really, really do not want to make a "design document" that's a billion pages long and details the fashion choices of every nation the protags will visit. Everything including that should serve the story, so once I know that actual story and what it needs to serve it, I can work out details like that from there.


I basically wrote this down because I find it easier to remember my thoughts later when I write them down (even without re-reading them), but of course feel free to comment on if it makes sense or not! What it means for the thread is...uh, even less updates?

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I completely agree with your thinking here. I like the idea of the golem hiding its sentience, that could lead to interesting areas of guilt and self-doubt for the golem - "what's wrong with me, is it something I did wrong", etc. Time to reread Frankenstein for inspiration?

Jack B Nimble
Dec 25, 2007



Soiled Meat

The Zakarum faith used a cross, iirc.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


lofi posted:

I completely agree with your thinking here. I like the idea of the golem hiding its sentience, that could lead to interesting areas of guilt and self-doubt for the golem - "what's wrong with me, is it something I did wrong", etc. Time to reread Frankenstein for inspiration?
Haha that assumes I read it in the first place

Jack B Nimble posted:

The Zakarum faith used a cross, iirc.
Oh, sure, but Blizzard's writers and visual designers are incredibly lazy. This is not supposed to be a clear transposition anymore, I want to come up with my own stuff that fits in my world. No prophet got crucified here, so a cross makes zero sense.

I have a bit more concrete plans now for this and my life: I have kept writing Thunderdome entries and I feel like I'm improving a lot, so I'll keep at that for now. Especially because it's pretty said-and-done, and I can re-decide every week if I want to enter. In two months, I'll be in a different country, with a new job, and finally start living together with my wife. I'll try to find a time and place to write more consistently, and that's when I'll start working on this project again. If that doesn't work out like I think it will - too bad, but that's the way it is. Nothing until then for sure, however. Sorry if you were interested!

Jack B Nimble
Dec 25, 2007



Soiled Meat

Good point on the cross. I look forward to reading more when/if you get back to it, but it sounds like you're taking a break for all the right reasons.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Simply Simon posted:

Haha that assumes I read it in the first place

Research! Though if I recall it's not actually very good - it's been copied so many times that it feels really derivative, even if it was the original.

Good luck with the writing! I try and read along to Thunderdome every so often but just can't keep up.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


lofi posted:

Research! Though if I recall it's not actually very good - it's been copied so many times that it feels really derivative, even if it was the original.

Good luck with the writing! I try and read along to Thunderdome every so often but just can't keep up.

You should enter again, I liked your vampire piece.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I did a vampire bit? Huh, I thought all I'd done was the were-newt one. Thanks anyway!

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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


lofi posted:

I did a vampire bit? Huh, I thought all I'd done was the were-newt one. Thanks anyway!

They're basically the same thing imo

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