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Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


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 07:58 on Jan 30, 2019

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