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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME


It's high time we open up another workshopping thread!

What this thread is for

This is the thread where you can post your short stories and novel excerpts for feedback!

Previous threads had maximum word counts. I don't think that's useful, especially for those of us working on longer short stories, novellas, and novels.

I'm going to put this right up front: If you are planning to submit your story for publication, please be aware that publishers may or may not consider posts in this thread as "prior publication" which could make your story ineligible. The way around this is to post your stories behind a link; most people will use Google docs for this purpose.

How to post

You can of course just paste your story directly into the thread.

Many CC writers use Google docs. If you would like to share your story as a Google docs link, make sure your share settings are set to "anyone with a link can read/comment"

You do not have to allow comments on your doc. You can certainly make it read-only and direct crits back to this thread. If you want line-by-line crits on a Google doc, however, it's better to enable comments.

How to post goodly

Any story or excerpt longer than about 5000 words should be posted as a Google docs link (or similar format) so readers don't have to scroll for ages.

Any story or excerpt shorter than 5000 words may be posted in this thread. Please see the caveat about publishers at the top of this post.

If you post a story, you should be prepared to crit someone else's story.

If you are posting your story in the thread, make sure to hit preview to catch any formatting errors. No one wants to read a horrible block of text because you couldn't be bothered to format your story for the forums. If you write in standard manuscript format in a word processor, you will need to do a small amount of work to make sure your spacing and formatting is appropriate for this thread.

Bad:

quote:

Title
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Good:

quote:

Title

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

How to crit goodly

The Fiction Advice thread has an excellent post about giving and receiving feedback! Scroll down a bit for advice on giving critiques.

I'm not going to post a rubric or guide because there are a lot of different ways to critique and some of it will depend on the format. Offering line-by-line critique directly in-document is going to be very different than writing a general content critique on the forums.

You do not have to have to have any special experience or insight to offer someone a critique. The only thing that isn't helpful are short, shallow responses like "this sucks" or "this is great".

I'll say it again: if you post a story, you should be prepared to crit someone else's story.

Resources:

Feel free to join CC's premier writing Discord! Also the home of the Thunderdome contest community.

https://discord.gg/FHT2UVM

I will add other resources here as people give them to me.

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Sep 28, 2020

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Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

I left a few comments on the doc.

In general, I enjoyed this! It's punchy and funny. Cantus is really legible as someone who really really wants his job to be more exciting than it is. I had a few nitpicks, but I am having trouble figuring out what was so egregious in the mind of your other reader.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




Sitting Here posted:

I left a few comments on the doc.

In general, I enjoyed this! It's punchy and funny. Cantus is really legible as someone who really really wants his job to be more exciting than it is. I had a few nitpicks, but I am having trouble figuring out what was so egregious in the mind of your other reader.

Thanks! Your critique is useful and gives me some confidence back. The other reviewer basically had an issue with everything, from the idea that doors crashing to the ground would create a lot of of noise, that there would be dust created by them falling ("how old would the doors have to be to send up a cloud of dust?") to the magic system not being clarified when "astral world" is mentioned, to not understanding why there was a fight happening, finding fault with the tone of sentences ("clumsy suggests a value judgement that a third person narrator shouldn't have, describe instead") and so forth. I can understand some of the critiques but in my opinion providing a lot of clarification would bog down the pacing with extraneous information that isn't pertinent to the story. Oh well.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Just threw my crit in the doc as well. I did a few line-by-lines and then an overall at the bottom. You've got a good grip on your protagonist and his conflict and it came across well, so that's the bulk of the hard poo poo out of the way. Now you can focus on all the boring stuff, like verb choices and sentence order.

As for the recent crit bringing you down, I just went through something similar and I know how much it sucks. I got through it by reminding myself that a) the person took the time to critique, and that's absolutely better than someone not caring about the story enough to say anything, and b) some people's critique style is focused strictly on pointing out problems, rather than highlighting both what works and what doesn't. And that's okay! Strangely enough, there are people in this world who really want to have their flaws pointed out in excruciating detail, which is why the subreddit /r/roastme exists. For others, this isn't particularly helpful, and they need some positivity in the mix too. That's why /r/getmotivated exists. Those groups couldn't be more different, yet each one has millions of followers. Point is, it takes all kinds of make a world, and even your harshest critic can be trying to help you in their own way.

having said all that, i still hate getting harsh crits, and i for sure stay up all night thinking about them as i take sad pics of myself in animal crossing. such is life...

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Thirding that I really liked this. I didn't have much to add on top of what has already been commented inline, so I just made two notes of my reactions as a reader. If you need beta readers later, let me know, I'd be game for this.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




Leng posted:

Thirding that I really liked this. I didn't have much to add on top of what has already been commented inline, so I just made two notes of my reactions as a reader. If you need beta readers later, let me know, I'd be game for this.

Hey thanks! I don't have private messaging so I can't really send you the full thing through PMs. I added my email address to the end of the document though so send me an email if you'd like to read the full thing, and I'll add you to the google doc!

NuclearEagleFox!!!
Oct 7, 2011


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

This was refreshing to read, I liked it. It reminded me strongly of the comedic fantasy elephants in the room. If that's not what you were going for, take all my crits with a grain of salt.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


Tell me what you think of this opening scene.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UX2ogH4HATx43_pw7yuYFWBd_9mWB4lkjC5rY9gt48Q/edit?usp=sharing

Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yQn0Ehp2HM11BlNUr5eNojWZnkl61siqKHi1Qas7ea8/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

A great opening. It has me interested in what comes next. Its so short though that I feel I don't have anything to add to what's already been said. I've struggled to find the perfect size snippet before - too short and all critiques are identical, too long and few will read it.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008



My first impression of this is one of unpolish. There's many grammatical/spelling errors (plenty of which Google has underlined so I'm not sure why you didn't fix them.) The characters names (as well as some in-universe terms) are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not which is particularly confusing due to their names.

I highly suggest reading this out loud and going through sentence by sentence. It's just too rough to give feedback right now. There's parts during the action I am completely lost.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


I know that I tend to create a muddled mess when I go for style I'm just too tangled up in it to see where I went wrong. Could you give an example of where you were lost and break it down? I've gone over it so many times I cant read it for what it is. I need someone else's eyes.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


I had a look when you first posted the link last week. My eyes glazed over pretty quickly and my brain went, this is way too hard to comment on. Here are some thoughts after rewatching Brandon Sanderson's 2020 lecture on plot (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrIogch5DBU) and a second pass.

The lecture I linked specifically addresses hooking readers with plot. Sanderson may not be your cup of tea, but he is very good at explaining the basics of craft: your opening makes certain promises (tone, story) to the reader and it's on you as the author to convince them to keep reading by giving them a sense of progress towards satisfying payoffs (i.e. delivering on the promises you made at the beginning).

Here are the tone and story promises I get from your opening:
  • Lots of epistolary journal entries from a not very interesting protagonist (the Prince)
  • The whole thing seems like it's going to be in omniscient third present tense with a detached narrator voice that isn't to my taste (note: that's personal preference, others may like it)
  • The journal made me expect fantasy (Prince, Guard, Help) but it quickly becomes clear that it's a modern setting (cars, guns, gas station, batteries, photos, concrete) without any of the typical hallmarks of urban fantasy. So now I'm very confused about what genre I'm in and therefore what kind of story I should be expecting
  • The prose is rough and difficult to read. You specifically mentioned going for style, but I'm not sure what effect you're deliberately going for. At any rate, running it through the free Grammarly online checker:

    That's a lot of issues for such a short excerpt. I'll leave some in-line comments in your Google Doc as an example.

I have no idea what your story is about. This "useless Prince" gave...some orders? To Guard and Help who then did stuff that pissed off the mob and the Errants and they're now on the run. The Prince seems to be a whiny delusional rich kid that Guard and Help (understandably) don't respect.

Why should I care about these characters? Why should I keep reading? My answer to both of those questions are "I don't know" and that's not a good thing for your opening.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


Thanks for the comments in the doc. I'll use them to rewrite and will post another version soon. I may cut the journal entries entirely, they are supposed to be milestones in the prince's transformation from "We're on a fun adventure to escape the ungrateful peasants" to "Oh, God. Literally everything is my fault". I'll try to bring these ideas up more naturally.

As for caring about the characters: The prince is based on the "let them eat cake" version of Marie Antoinette. Guard is the only reasonable character but he has no morals. A pure self-interest machine. The narrator isn't quite omniscient and they despise the prince, in a way they are Guard's internal monologue. Is the way I introduce them bad, or are they just not interesting? The way their personalities interact are fundamental to the story so if there's something wrong there I'm not sure if I can fix it.

animaldog fucked around with this message at 04:14 on Oct 17, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


animaldog posted:

The narrator isn't quite omniscient and they despise the prince, in a way they are Guard's internal monologue.

Ok, this is the missing piece!

animaldog posted:

Guard is the only reasonable character but he has no morals. A pure self-interest machine.

<snip>

Is the way I introduce them bad, or are they just not interesting? The way their personalities interact are fundamental to the story so if there's something wrong there I'm not sure if I can fix it.

It's more that I had NO IDEA that we're supposed to be in Guard's head. Your current opening is written in such a distant third that I mistook it for omniscient. Get closer, so that it's really clear who the POV character is. The journal entry is actually a red herring, because it made me assume that if we were in anybody's head, it was going to be the Prince. That was really off putting since he's unlikeable, incompetent and uninteresting.

I'd suggesting watching this Sanderson lecture on characters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NCiuI6F5O0 - he talks about figuring out where your characters sit on 3 different sliding scales (likeability, proactivity and competence) and how that will change over their character arc.

If Guard never develops morals over the course of the story, that decreases his likeability so you have to make up for it with his proactivity and competence - it's ok to have an unlikeable character if they are always doing badass and interesting things. If Guard does have an arc that ends with him developing some morals, then you'll need to show that he's got some hope of overcoming that flaw.

That is your hook: Guard has the world's whiniest and most incompetent boss who just destroyed the kingdom. Somehow, he's got to keep his Prince (a ridiculous idiot rich kid who is completely out of touch with reality) alive for the ??? (insert period of time) drive across a rioting country over the ??? (insert direction) border to seek refuge with the closest ally while fighting mobs and dangerous Errants.

Everybody knows somebody like the Prince - whether we've worked for them, been bullied by them, had some aspect of our life ruined by them - and we all hate them. That makes your reader immediately identify with Guard.

Having a clear goal (direction of nearest ally) - and knowing how far away it is/how hard it is get there - establishes your stakes and gives me an idea of what the progress will be.

We also then have a number of clear conflicts established:
1) conflict with the Prince - he's so incompetent that he's bound to blow their cover and Guard can't get rid of him for (insert reasons)
2) conflict with the mob
3) conflict with the Errants - they're armed and dangerous

There wasn't enough in your opening for me to understand what the specific issue with #2 is, but you get the idea. I look forward to seeing your next version.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


animaldog posted:

I know that I tend to create a muddled mess when I go for style I'm just too tangled up in it to see where I went wrong. Could you give an example of where you were lost and break it down? I've gone over it so many times I cant read it for what it is. I need someone else's eyes.

Leng is giving you good advice. I'll take another look after you edit.

I never would have guessed this is from Guard's POV. Seems like it's supposed to be the Prince's from the start, which greatly adds to the confusion later.

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


So hopefully this link works, I'm not very familiar with google drive

https://docs.google.com/document/d/13o8wMpIWu8DpWcVFnbsS_Q5--opGrF9S1qfV_-3pqrc/edit?usp=sharing

That's the first part of my novel. Comments and criticisms all welcome and don't feel you have to read the whole lot in order to comment.

It's an urban fantasy about a secretive British agency called Unit 13 tasked with protecting the country against paranormal threats. Only because it's a British agency it's woefully underfunded. The main character is meant to have a cosy desk job but gets drafted in to cover the London branch's ghost hunter when she goes on maternity leave. It's meant to be a do nothing job, after all ghosts only haunt tumbledown castles and manor houses, there are never any actual hauntings in a big city like London....

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today



Works fine and I'm happy take a look over the weekend, though I might not read all 20k words. What sort of critique are you specifically looking for?

EDIT: Alright, a quicker read of your 20k words than I thought it would be! Since you haven't specifically said you wanted a line critique, I'll just give you general comments (bear in mind that I don't normally read this genre unless you count Cassandra Clare).
  • Overall good story and plotting, I like it. I appreciate how you circled back on things introduced earlier throughout the extract you shared.
  • What I like best about your prose is your description - the strong imagery really appeals to me
  • That said, I think you could work on tightening the prose as sometimes you repeat the same idea in multiple paragraphs in the same chapter. Martha and bungalow vs cottage is one example
  • I would suggest you really reconsider the little italicized epigraphs. I felt they detracted from my experience of the story, mainly because the first one literally opens with the sentence "It was a dark and stormy night" and the second one seems to be just setting that could easily be done in the main body of the text rather than as an epigraph. So as a reader, I'm cringing at the first one (which is the opening paragraph of your novel–not a good thing), learning that it's a fluffy summary of what I'm about to read (and not just the chapter but the entire book apparently!), so when I get to the second one, I decide to skim it (if not skip it entirely)
  • However, having read your whole extract, I'm going to guess that the epigraphs are what Martha is seeing over time, or it's a ghost puppet master or something like that, and presumably the epigraphs gives us some clues as to why ghosts are now appearing in force so we can try to figure it out as we go along
  • If I've guessed correctly, then I think you need to do something a little differently with these epigraphs. They seem to be written by some omniscient narrator (the voice is distinctly different to Martha's if it's her seeing these things) and the other problem is it's happening RIGHT BEFORE the chapter we're about to read. If you want me to figure out the clues, then you need to help me understand that there are clues here to be figured out. Consider:
    - whether you've placed these epigraphs in the correct spots; do they need to be epigraphs or should you do cut scenes in the text?
    - Do I need to see these in chronological order, reverse chronological order, some other order? Could you pair them with chapters thematically rather than literally?
    - Is it better to group a few together or to spread them out so sporadically?
    - Do you need to start off with one, or would it be better to place it later, once we know there is a mystery and we can have fun recognizing the opening scene?
    - Should I just be recognizing the scene, or is there entirely new information in these epigraphs (thanks to them being seen by someone attuned to power, etc or whatever) that I didn't see when we saw the event happen earlier?
  • Finally, I felt like the beginning started off a little slow, even though I think structurally the prologue is the right choice. It felt like I was reading about a drug addict driving a reluctant friend to a rave for way too long before I got supernatural stuff happening, and then the punchline was really the moment when Tom asked "Do you have any jobs going?" - after that point, the job interview doesn't really add anything in the way of characterization or setting that your opening chapter in the office doesn't do (since your joke is Unit 13 operates like every other bureaucratic organization). The best characterization you did with that kind of moment is when Tom's sitting in Taylor's office panicking about padding his resume and not really wanting to be a field agent.
There are some word choice, grammar, punctuation, etc issues in what you've posted but it's readable right now so I would still be focusing on getting the pacing, structure, tone, emotional reactions right. My suggestion would be to do another pass for these kinds of things and get line critiques on the next version.

Hope that helps and is what you were looking for!

Leng fucked around with this message at 03:56 on Oct 24, 2020

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


That is really helpful, yes, thank you!.

Those are actually the only two epigraphs in the novel. The first one was deliberately meant to cheesy but it seems it missed the mark if it's gone into full cringe. It's probably easiest for me to just remove them both.

I do have the other two parts written up. If you have any interest in reading them let me know and I'll share the links here. Otherwise, thanks again for the comments.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


FightingMongoose posted:

So hopefully this link works, I'm not very familiar with google drive

https://docs.google.com/document/d/13o8wMpIWu8DpWcVFnbsS_Q5--opGrF9S1qfV_-3pqrc/edit?usp=sharing

That's the first part of my novel. Comments and criticisms all welcome and don't feel you have to read the whole lot in order to comment.

It's an urban fantasy about a secretive British agency called Unit 13 tasked with protecting the country against paranormal threats. Only because it's a British agency it's woefully underfunded. The main character is meant to have a cosy desk job but gets drafted in to cover the London branch's ghost hunter when she goes on maternity leave. It's meant to be a do nothing job, after all ghosts only haunt tumbledown castles and manor houses, there are never any actual hauntings in a big city like London....

My impression of this is that there is a tremendous amount of detail that is not very important. It feels like they're in the car forever before they arrive at the 'rave'. Nearly all the details about Chris don't matter when he's about to be shivved. I started skimming until they arrived. The story picks up from there, but the detail overload continues. For example:

quote:

He turned and scanned the foyer for the seats that the receptionist had told him to go to. There were no obvious chairs or benches that he could see. There were some dark grey stone cubes that were roughly the size and dimensions of a stool and Tom wandered over to them. They could be intended as stools, he reasoned, but equally they could be corporate art of some kind or even security barriers to prevent someone driving a car through the windows behind them.

Too risky to sit on them, Tom decided, and he opted to stand beside them instead.

That is 100 words and more than 1 paragraph to describe a relatively unimportant bit of scene setting. Here's me trying to reduce it by 2/3rds while using almost entirely your words: "In the foyer, there were grey stone cubes that resembled stools, but could equally well be some kind of corporate art. Too risky to sit on them, Tom decided, and opted to stand instead."

Alternatively, if you want to write detailed description, I think the details need to be more interesting. You'd have to describe the stools in an interesting or funny way.

Lastly, when you write about London, you almost have to characterize the city itself. Or at least acknowledge most of your audience has some idea of the city. I don't read urban fantasy but would expect it to be extra important there. I wondered which tube station Tom was at and was unhappy I couldn't place him anywhere. Felt like it could be any crowded city with mass transit.

I stopped reading/scanning after the interview because I felt I had read enough to give feedback.

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


Makes sense, thanks.

tuyop
Sep 14, 2006

Every second that we're not growing BASIL is a second wasted


Fun Shoe

Hi critique thread!

I wrote a lot of fiction when I was younger and then got ground down by academic and business writing. Thought I'd give fiction a try again this year and I just finished my first short story in about 17 years. I think I'm just looking to figure out how to work through some of my weaknesses. Things like dialogue and character voice.

I still read a lot so I'll do my best to provide helpful feedback as well.

Here's my story, all 6900 words of it.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FODMAjpHdotUvltpe0qKmtMRqUVz4m91kOdL_EaZU2o/edit?usp=sharing

I don't know if a line-by-line critique is necessary. I think I'm mainly dissatisfied with the car ride, and the final setting at the end with the tunnel/cave system. I think it's unintentionally disorienting and I'm not sure how to describe it clearly while portraying the character's confusion. While I was writing it I was trying to remember how Ballingrud communicated things in the crevasse story from North American Lake Monsters.

Thanks in advance, I've also joined the thunderdome discord.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


Hi and welcome back to fiction writing!

Here's what I got out of your piece:
Overall story = Guy whose work clues him in to the problems waste is having on nature and the lives of animals. He begins noticing more and more how wasteful the world is until one day he follows the waste. At the end of the path he discovers a horror-bird that elicits a terrible price from people to atone for their wrongs against nature.?

I like the overall premise of the story and I like how the path of the protagonist is compared to the client he is researching on behalf of. They also are interested in helping the planet, but their interest is superficial whereas the protagonist is willing to give up so much more. I like the unreality of dumping a wheelbarrow full of rice and pouring out perfectly brewed coffee, but I think these things should be done in escalation. From noticing litter, to finding whole fields of buried toys and then finally to throwing away what isn't even trash.

The biggest problem I had with reading it is just how laden this is with details. The protagonist seems to notice everything until the very end when I feel more confused than the protagonist probably. I think some focus on details that really matter to the protagonist or that matter to the story being told will help tighten this up. There's a lot of focus on the weather and the natural setting and while I can understand that it relates to the narrative by the time I get to the end, since this is a first person POV story, the protagonist's interest in taking note of these things seems out of place and unexplained.

This surplus of details at the beginning would be a good contrast with the end if there were fewer details to show just how dazed and confused the protagonist is such that they gloss over their surroundings and only get vague impressions of bad/dead/detritus, etc.

Since I think the story could benefit from some rearranging and cutting of details I didn't want to comment on too many specific things but these two lines made me cringe:

"It happened one day in November while I was waiting for a bus on Windmill Road." - This is the opening line and needs to grab people or at least propel them onto your second sentence. And unfortunately the "it" that happened doesn't actually define this piece. In fact, I wonder how much anyone is going to remember wheelbarrow full of rice.

"This was an afront and could not stand." - Delete

Not bad if this is your first attempt in 17 years. Congratulations on finishing a story! And I would definitely recommend the Thunderdome thread if you want to do some more short story practice.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


tuyop posted:

Hi critique thread!

I wrote a lot of fiction when I was younger and then got ground down by academic and business writing. Thought I'd give fiction a try again this year and I just finished my first short story in about 17 years. I think I'm just looking to figure out how to work through some of my weaknesses. Things like dialogue and character voice.

I still read a lot so I'll do my best to provide helpful feedback as well.

Here's my story, all 6900 words of it.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FODMAjpHdotUvltpe0qKmtMRqUVz4m91kOdL_EaZU2o/edit?usp=sharing

I don't know if a line-by-line critique is necessary. I think I'm mainly dissatisfied with the car ride, and the final setting at the end with the tunnel/cave system. I think it's unintentionally disorienting and I'm not sure how to describe it clearly while portraying the character's confusion. While I was writing it I was trying to remember how Ballingrud communicated things in the crevasse story from North American Lake Monsters.

Thanks in advance, I've also joined the thunderdome discord.

Good work getting back to writing after 17 years.

There is a tremendous amount of detail in this that is not very interesting. You wrote that you didn't want a line edit but the writing itself kept me from the story. Partially because there's a lot of erroneous detail, but also because the writing isn't . . . I don't know, sharp or evocative enough. I think I'm supposed to find it strange that this guy is walking out of a dim sum restaurant with a wheelbarrow, but it doesn't come off as that weird or interesting.

Sometimes, I don't understand what is happening. I found this very strange:

quote:

This week I was “maximizing advancement synergy” for a startup in New Brunswick focused on “solutions-based ocean education on the plastics crisis”. Based on their website this company seemed to have spent a significant portion of their original funding on graphic design. I was impressed.
“Oh yeah, I saw those guys doing a TedX. Woke trust funds who just noticed that the world is poo poo.” The woman working next to me, Mary, a lesbian from PEI who fostered cats, had evidently been drawn to the tastefully animated pictographs on the website.
“Well,” I said, “plastics are bad.”
“Sure, but somehow the nonprofits have failed to save us until now.” And she rolled her eyes and hid her piercings behind a discount pair of large headphones.

The protagonist is impressed by a startup blowing their funding on graphic design?

Is it important that Mary is a lesbian because the rest of that line is a negative judgement and that's the first thing the protag thinks of. Secondly, if Mary thinks poorly of these people why is she impressed by the website too? Is Mary responding to something the protag said here?

The plastics line makes me think the protag is an idiot.

I don't understand Mary's last line because I thought she was complaining about the startup but now she's complaining about nonprofits. I'm guessing she's giving the startup a chance because nonprofits have not been successful, but if so, this isn't communicated.

Everything about that exchange implies the startup is full of poo poo (but has the most amazing website in the world), but both characters are credulous for some reason.

You mentioned wanting to work on character and voice. I think improving that section would be a great opportunity to give both characters a coherent voice, largely through dialogue. Instead of telling me plastics are bad, tell me something that reveals why protag is there.

ultrachrist fucked around with this message at 18:39 on Jan 22, 2021

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.


I wrote a ~3500 word spec-fic lite that I'd love to get some crits on, if anybody's interested. My goal is to maybe try and shop this around at some point, so any kind of feedback is helpful.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kY4Coz_A4DEmEJve-RuWrtJ1ffQBzlaXwKLQeQhVX8k/edit?usp=sharing

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


Nae posted:

I wrote a ~3500 word spec-fic lite that I'd love to get some crits on, if anybody's interested. My goal is to maybe try and shop this around at some point, so any kind of feedback is helpful.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kY4Coz_A4DEmEJve-RuWrtJ1ffQBzlaXwKLQeQhVX8k/edit?usp=sharing

The prose in this is pretty good! It rarely got in the way of the story for me. I read the entire thing.

Here's what jumped out at me:
- The first vignette is boring. I think a big problem with it is the girl does not read as her age. Her internal thoughts seem much older. Kid writing is hard but it's one of those things that's really obvious when it's done well.
- Partway through the second vignette, I started thinking "the writer better have a really good explanation w/r/t how these link together", but I was disappointed in the "I explain everything" ending.
- It's not as egregious as part 1, but the teen girl doesn't feel completely like her age either.
- When you look at how these sorts of stories work... stuff like Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell's other books or If on a Winter's Night a Traveler... usually the different stories are highly different in tone and setting. The reader is immersed in different worlds/characters while wondering how they're tied together. This is of course difficult to accomplish in 3500 words. In your story, the tone is fairly similar across each, especially the first two. Jewel as macguffin isn't very intriguing.

All in all, I found it well-written but it didn't really grab me.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.


ultrachrist posted:

The prose in this is pretty good! It rarely got in the way of the story for me. I read the entire thing.

Here's what jumped out at me:
- The first vignette is boring. I think a big problem with it is the girl does not read as her age. Her internal thoughts seem much older. Kid writing is hard but it's one of those things that's really obvious when it's done well.
- Partway through the second vignette, I started thinking "the writer better have a really good explanation w/r/t how these link together", but I was disappointed in the "I explain everything" ending.
- It's not as egregious as part 1, but the teen girl doesn't feel completely like her age either.
- When you look at how these sorts of stories work... stuff like Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell's other books or If on a Winter's Night a Traveler... usually the different stories are highly different in tone and setting. The reader is immersed in different worlds/characters while wondering how they're tied together. This is of course difficult to accomplish in 3500 words. In your story, the tone is fairly similar across each, especially the first two. Jewel as macguffin isn't very intriguing.

All in all, I found it well-written but it didn't really grab me.

Thanks for the feedback! From the other crits I've gotten and this, I really need to make it clear that all three sections are being narrated by the person at the end, which is why the voice and tone are all the same and why the eight-year-old and fourteen-year-old's thoughts don't read as their on-page ages. The ending has been poorly-received across the board, too, so I'll have to go back to the drawing board on that.

tuyop
Sep 14, 2006

Every second that we're not growing BASIL is a second wasted


Fun Shoe

ultrachrist posted:

Good work getting back to writing after 17 years.

a friendly penguin posted:

Hi and welcome back to fiction writing!

Thank you both for the thoughtful critiques, I really appreciate them. I just didn't have the energy last week to return to it and give it a big structural edit.

I'm going to dive in a bit this evening, hopefully.

Arcsquad12
Mar 4, 2013

I Love Satan


I've decided to get off my rear end and start writing again. It's what I went through school for, so I should be putting it to good use if I ever want to publish.

SimonChris
Apr 24, 2008

The Baron's daughter is missing, and you are the man to find her. No problem. With your inexhaustible arsenal of hard-boiled similes, there is nothing you can't handle.

Grimey Drawer

An editor posted:

This piece was well-written, but we felt it would've worked better starting on page 8, with the MORIARTY idea worked into the Global Security meeting.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cmRxb706K-xT3FgUpgb8OTZTDllpl3rogMUtLMKtK_Y/edit?usp=sharing

I need a second opinion on this. I am normally a fan of starting in medias res, but I think at least some of the slice-of-life scenes in the beginning are necessary for the rest to have the full impact.

Comments on the rest of the story are welcome as well, of course .

Edit: Page 8 in the original document is page 6 in the google doc.

SimonChris fucked around with this message at 16:15 on Apr 4, 2021

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


I had a look and I would agree with the editor's comment but I think you also have a point. Your story comes in under 5k words but you've spent over 20% on the slice of life stuff but only these details matter:
  • What MORIARTY does (first scene, 388 words)
  • Valerija is the real brains behind MORIARTY, she's Kristian's partner and he loves her (second scene, 150 words)
  • He's a bit of a species-est jerk, looking down on interplanetary refugees (third scene, 237 words)
The fourth scene has a really long wind up (404 words) where not much interesting happens. You could write something to the effect of "Global Security grabbed me the next morning" and I would get it as a reader.

Each of your scenes is only doing one distinct thing, but you're in short story land so your story needs to be more tightly written. I think you could probably get away with opening on a "slice of life" scene if it did all three things in 500-800 words.

My other main observation is to do with the protagonist's motivation. We're supposed to buy that he sacrifices their relationship to save her because he loves her so much. But the only things we really see about their relationship is:
1) Kristian SAYS to Valerija that he's only the secretary/sales guy, but we're opening with him as a big shot sales exec closing deals which generally has an association with the character in question having a huge ego;
2) she calls him out on being intolerant;
3) he tries to make a run for it with her, without telling her the truth for...reasons? I'm not really sure. I mean yeah, it's classified but if he's asking her to go on the run with him all the while knowing the world's about to end...
4) when he's asked to make a decision, the details he thinks about are: her face and her perfume. Those are pretty superficial physical details and don't convey him thinking about her as a person
5) he has a thought about whether she's worth more with or without him; this was actually interesting but it got lost in the wrap up

I have no idea how long they have been together, why they are actually in a relationship instead of just as cofounders in a start up, and what they actually love about each other.

Here's what I would do with the opening if I were writing your story:
  • Cut the first and second scenes but stick with the third as your opening.
  • Open in Kristian's POV but with Valerija talking about the roadmap for MORIARTY and how it's going to be a massive improvement. She's the center of his world and he's focused on her.
  • Have Kristian follow along when she's discussing the broad concepts–all the while admiring her genius–but getting lost whenever she gets super technical. He reflects on how he used to try to keep up but after X time period, he doesn't bother anymore, he's just happy watching her and how enthusiastic she is about optimizing optimal selection algorithms
  • Have him just make some internal observations about the Betelgeusian refugees (maybe one of them is the waiter, or there's a table of them nearby, or maybe Valerija convinced him to eat from that food stall and he agreed because he wanted to make her happy even though he hates it or because refugees make him uncomfortable because???)
  • Also make it so that Kristian is kind of distracted and trying not to be, because the contracts he's sold all got cancelled, and he's thinking about how to tell her, and he's also really reluctant because he feels like he let her down, because he's internalized that he's just the secretary/sales guy and therefore all of the contracts falling through mean that he's contributed essentially nothing. Is he worrying about how they're going to pay for dinner?
  • She drags it out of him; they agree it is very suspicious and start making exit plans
  • He notices agents closing in
  • The agents grab them and separate them
Obviously, I'm not you and this is not my story, so write it your way. But the main thing is you need to make that opening work a lot harder to 1) establish stakes; 2) establish world; and 3) establish characters and their relationships a lot faster than you're currently doing. I had no idea we were even in sci-fi land until halfway down page 3, despite the in-joke at the end of the first scene, and I love reading sci-fi.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


The first scene doesn't work for me and the second and third didn't entice me to continue so the editor is probably right.

It's difficult to start a story with dialogue because it is spoken by people we don't know or care about. It needs to be really striking to work.

I have been part of sales presentations of new technology and this is absolutely nothing like what happens. The audience may be uncomprehending idiots but they still need to ask questions and THINK they understand it. Why else would they buy it? They're bored but he gets the contract? They don't care about the tech but they get interested in paying for it?? They're raising their hands to speak instead of blustering right in?

The first interesting detail in the beginning is the protag's insecurity over being "the sales guy".

SimonChris
Apr 24, 2008

The Baron's daughter is missing, and you are the man to find her. No problem. With your inexhaustible arsenal of hard-boiled similes, there is nothing you can't handle.

Grimey Drawer

Thanks, both of you. This is super helpful . I knew I had to tighten the story, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. I will probably follow most of Leng's advice.

Part of the challenge of writing in a foreign language is that it is hard to find good beta readers... My friends and family mostly just tell me that my English is very good, which is flattering but not very useful.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




Yeah Leng is great for doing all these detailed critiques! They did a beta read of a book I’m publishing as soon as the final line edits are done and it helped a lot!

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


I've now done the second draft of my urban fantasy (I never claimed to be a quick writer).

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qW1xAsmZMEbcMjgDPHoXihg2XsUnWkt98Ls_3GaciTw/edit?usp=sharing

All comments and suggestions are welcome, especially from Leng and ultrachrist. Hopefully I've taken your feedback onboard.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


FightingMongoose posted:

I've now done the second draft of my urban fantasy (I never claimed to be a quick writer).

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qW1xAsmZMEbcMjgDPHoXihg2XsUnWkt98Ls_3GaciTw/edit?usp=sharing

All comments and suggestions are welcome, especially from Leng and ultrachrist. Hopefully I've taken your feedback onboard.

Much better pacing and flow. Here's what stuck out to me on a second read:
  • Prologue is much improved! The stripping back of all the extraneous detail about Chris did wonders for the pacing and I think the characters actually come across stronger for it, because we see how they interact, as opposed to being told long infodumps. There are some gaps though:
    - it's harder to pinpoint their ages as high school or college seniors, even though the stuff about looking for a job is there. I think another line from Chris would probably be enough to fix this. Not having this context for why job hunting is important makes Tom's "Actually, do you have an opening?" feel like it's coming from left field instead of being the great punch line it originally was.
    - "Dave's" line is weird; mainly because I can't figure out what kind of monster he is (demon?) and it seems weird that a shape shifting thing would choose to blow its cover at the first instance rather than try to lure them both in to make a kill. Or is it because it knows that Unit 13 are in the area?
    - I was a bit disappointed that Chris got eaten before Unit 13 burst in. I get the shock horror value though I feel like what's missing is a build of tension, because the emotional tone goes from "Tom's annoyed his druggie friend makes a pitstop in a sketchy suburb to buy drugs from his dealer" to "holy crap Chris just got vivisected by an eldritch horror". The most interesting section is the opening bit, because both Chris and Tom are being active, though I'm also missing what their original destination was supposed to be, or why Tom is there with Chris. Probably a tweak to one of Tom's lines would fix this.
    - As soon as "Dave" explodes though, Tom stops being active and is relegated to being an observer, until the very end, so his motivations for joining Unit 13 are very unclear (in the earlier version, it was funny because he literally didn't know what else to do and so went with his friend's idea). I kind of wanted to see them get drawn in, with Chris being super focused on getting a job while Tom's noticing all the supernatural weirdness, secretly freaking out and making excuses for it, and desperately trying to get Chris to leave. Unit 13's arrival could either be the thing that triggers the beast to reveal itself, or Chris provokes it in front of Unit 13, or Tom stumbles on something that forces the beast to reveal its true form by complete accident. The latter might be cool, because it kind of gives us the answer of why Unit 13 would hire him (I'm basing this on the assumption that they don't typically hire witnesses)
  • The random switch to Martha's POV in the middle of Tom's narrative - I assume you're laying groundwork for the rest of your novel (I think you said there's more right?) but the switch came at a jarring time for me, because we never went back to Martha after that. So it felt like I had a random chapter that had no intersection with Tom's narrative, which otherwise had a self contained arc. That said, I love Martha. The way she gets herself to London is great; but the 613 words spent on her deciding to leave and arriving at the private hotel felt excessive (though I did like some of your imagery).
  • The Amy scene also sticks out as something that I'm not sure on what the purpose is. I assume it's foreshadowing or something, but it doesn't interest me because again Tom is there as an observer
  • Tom being an observer is not necessarily a bad thing; for example the Turnball Mansions scene with Neema works just fine - because we're meant to see that he's a complete rookie. But by and large, it's more interesting if your protagonist is more proactive.
  • Beginning of Chapter 2 with the second brief could use some trimming down as well. I think it's because Taylor opens with the fact it's a reported ghost sighting and they have a back and forth about how ghosts aren't real, then Tom goes and asks again about the job, so it feels like they're rehashing the same details twice. The set up of the £50 joke is nice, but I think you could do it more efficiently without having to describe Tom Googling the app, etc. I'm not totally convinced you need to see Taylor briefing Tom. The few pieces of information you need (she's a penny pinching manager, he's now got the app, another ghost sighting has been reported, this time he's on his own) could be worked into Tom's introspection as he's arriving at Pewter St, potentially with more emotional impact. If you started off with the most interesting part from the Taylor briefing (Tom's thought that "it didn’t seem real that he was off to fight supernatural entities"), you'd have a reason for the detailed description of his surroundings, because he's juxtaposing where he actually is and where he thinks he should be.

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


Thanks again so much for your feedback.

Some of it I disagree on but that's maybe because what I'm intending isn't coming across. Would you be able to suggest how to make it clearer?

Leng posted:

- "Dave's" line is weird; mainly because I can't figure out what kind of monster he is (demon?) and it seems weird that a shape shifting thing would choose to blow its cover at the first instance rather than try to lure them both in to make a kill. Or is it because it knows that Unit 13 are in the area?
The transformation was meant to be beyond his control, which was why he'd told Chris he was "going away". I maybe need to make that clearer? Or just drop it?

quote:

- I was a bit disappointed that Chris got eaten before Unit 13 burst in. I get the shock horror value though I feel like what's missing is a build of tension, because the emotional tone goes from "Tom's annoyed his druggie friend makes a pitstop in a sketchy suburb to buy drugs from his dealer" to "holy crap Chris just got vivisected by an eldritch horror". The most interesting section is the opening bit, because both Chris and Tom are being active, though I'm also missing what their original destination was supposed to be, or why Tom is there with Chris. Probably a tweak to one of Tom's lines would fix this.
- As soon as "Dave" explodes though, Tom stops being active and is relegated to being an observer, until the very end, so his motivations for joining Unit 13 are very unclear (in the earlier version, it was funny because he literally didn't know what else to do and so went with his friend's idea). I kind of wanted to see them get drawn in, with Chris being super focused on getting a job while Tom's noticing all the supernatural weirdness, secretly freaking out and making excuses for it, and desperately trying to get Chris to leave. Unit 13's arrival could either be the thing that triggers the beast to reveal itself, or Chris provokes it in front of Unit 13, or Tom stumbles on something that forces the beast to reveal its true form by complete accident.
Cool, agreed.

quote:

The latter might be cool, because it kind of gives us the answer of why Unit 13 would hire him (I'm basing this on the assumption that they don't typically hire witnesses)
They're desperate to hire because shady organisations can't just advertise on TotalJobs, even if Tom is woefully unqualified! Again, it looks like this hasn't come across. Help.

quote:

[*]The random switch to Martha's POV in the middle of Tom's narrative - I assume you're laying groundwork for the rest of your novel
[*]The Amy scene also sticks out as something that I'm not sure on what the purpose is. I assume it's foreshadowing or something, but it doesn't interest me because again Tom is there as an observer
Yeah I'm having trouble getting these two scenes to fit in properly, but Martha and Amy are both important characters later on (Martha's probably got almost as much screen time as Tom does).

I've put up a synopsis which hopefully shows why the scenes are important even if they need to be reworked.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-t6kHCTo7TCjxI82wI7qtFNotZSJ5bLv03OiAXTMNMk/edit?usp=sharing

quote:

[*]Beginning of Chapter 2 with the second brief could use some trimming down as well. I think it's because Taylor opens with the fact it's a reported ghost sighting and they have a back and forth about how ghosts aren't real, then Tom goes and asks again about the job, so it feels like they're rehashing the same details twice. The set up of the £50 joke is nice, but I think you could do it more efficiently without having to describe Tom Googling the app, etc. I'm not totally convinced you need to see Taylor briefing Tom. The few pieces of information you need (she's a penny pinching manager, he's now got the app, another ghost sighting has been reported, this time he's on his own) could be worked into Tom's introspection as he's arriving at Pewter St, potentially with more emotional impact. If you started off with the most interesting part from the Taylor briefing (Tom's thought that "it didn’t seem real that he was off to fight supernatural entities"), you'd have a reason for the detailed description of his surroundings, because he's juxtaposing where he actually is and where he thinks he should be.
I'll have a think about this one and how it can be reworked.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


FightingMongoose posted:

Thanks again so much for your feedback.

Some of it I disagree on but that's maybe because what I'm intending isn't coming across. Would you be able to suggest how to make it clearer?

Any time! And feedback is just feedback - take or leave it as you like. Keep in mind that I am probably not your target audience as I don't really read this genre, so there may be conventions that I'm not taking into account.

FightingMongoose posted:

Yeah I'm having trouble getting these two scenes to fit in properly, but Martha and Amy are both important characters later on (Martha's probably got almost as much screen time as Tom does).

I've put up a synopsis which hopefully shows why the scenes are important even if they need to be reworked.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-t6kHCTo7TCjxI82wI7qtFNotZSJ5bLv03OiAXTMNMk/edit?usp=sharing

Okay, having now read the synopsis, I'd say that you need to work on your foreshadowing. I'm no expert, but I can tell you what I like and dislike as a reader.

LIKE: Specific details (emotion, turn of phrase, object, action, myth, symbolism) that stick out from the rest of the descriptive detail (usually unique or given particular emphasis through focus or juxtaposition) that the character doesn't realize is important at the time, but will become Significant later (and usually, I as the reader work it out just before the character does: for non-complex foreshadowing, I like to figure it out maybe a page to a paragraph before the character does; for complex foreshadowing that goes across multiple books, I like being able to theorize about it in between books)

DISLIKE: Vagueness. That really sums it up. This includes things like "X noticed something was off about Y but X couldn't figure out what it was".

In the Amy scene, she's described as "mechanical" and "listless" after giving birth. I honestly didn't take that to have any supernatural overtones–I just thought she's probably sleep deprived and/or struggling with post-partum depression. If she's the common link between Tom and Martha and turns out to be the necromancer (so the Small Bad?), then it'd be cool if you seeded enough details (preferably not just her appearance) about Amy in both chapters so I could try and make that connection before the reveal.

On Martha, I thought she was a fortune teller because of the tea leaves. Had no idea she was a witch and the coven stuff, because there's nothing so far that's prepared me for witches, and absent any specific hints, the concept of witches I'm bringing in is the usual pointy black hat, cauldron, weird ingredients, all of which were absent from her cottage. Martha's POV also doesn't read like she's anything other than a little old lady who's got psychic powers or something (is that what witches can do in this world?). You've got Tom riffing about cultists in his early POVs; that feels like a convenient place to put more infodumps about what things are/are not real supernatural things in this world, so you could do something there.

You might also want to consider changing up how you're interleaving the Tom and Martha POVs. Because the Martha POV came in after so many Tom POVs without Tom and Martha interacting, I made the assumption that I'm was reading a single protagonist novel, so then got irritated about having to read about a little old lady taking a bus to London when I wanted to see Tom check out his first solo ghost report.

Finally, not much happens in the Martha POV. She reads some tea leaves, decides she needs to leave, then we see the process of her leaving, and then there's something about finding a girl. Based on her POV alone, I don't understand the significance of the girl (her daughter? granddaughter?) or care. I don't get the sense of impending evil in the world, or any idea about a coven. You don't have to dump it all here, but I would find it more interesting if you dropped a hook or two I can latch on to. Like, how long has the coven been incomplete? Did she recently lose her mentor or has it been years? If Martha's been alone for years, is she tired from defeating evil all by herself or has it just been a particularly slow decade? If the coven is so necessary to protecting the world, why hasn't she found a new maiden and a new mother already? How does Amy becoming involved with a guy and getting pregnant result in her losing her credentials? Wouldn't that be a pre-requisite step to ascending to mother? Who grants the credentials in the first place?

Other random observations on the synopsis:
- unclear how Amy the necromancer is linked (or not linked) to Zanthir (the Big Bad)
- there's mention of a prophecy that Martha follows, but does it relate to Zanthir, or to how the coven establishes and maintains itself? Was the prophecy in the tea leaves?
- is the future maiden a random person Tom hooks up with or is it Megan (his gf/wife/partner as hinted in his POV)?

FightingMongoose posted:

The transformation was meant to be beyond his control, which was why he'd told Chris he was "going away". I maybe need to make that clearer? Or just drop it?

This one's up to you, really. But if he's hiding, then why would he even answer the door? Surely easier to pretend he's already left? On a reread, I can see the involuntary jerking was supposed to indicate something's wrong, except Dave's a drug dealer, so I assumed that he had dosed up on something that impaired his motor skills. There's also a very abrupt switch from "Dave" telling them to "go away, it's a bad time" to "I told you so" and then killing Chris without any reluctance when he had gone out of his way to discourage them prior (and if he's undercover, what did he really want to do? Was "Dave" ever actually Dave or has he been a shell for a long time?).

It doesn't really matter which way you go, but it does need to come across consistently.

FightingMongoose posted:

They're desperate to hire because shady organisations can't just advertise on TotalJobs, even if Tom is woefully unqualified! Again, it looks like this hasn't come across. Help.

Ah! I thought they were official and government sanctioned but the kind of organization where you'd need high levels of security clearance to know about (because they're called "Unit 13" and the previous version had a fancy lobby and the office set up seems very governmental). Did not get shady vibes at all, in fact I thought they might have been like a S.H.I.E.L.D. like organization or something.

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


Leng posted:


On Martha, I thought she was a fortune teller because of the tea leaves. Had no idea she was a witch and the coven stuff, because there's nothing so far that's prepared me for witches, and absent any specific hints, the concept of witches I'm bringing in is the usual pointy black hat, cauldron, weird ingredients, all of which were absent from her cottage.
This was meant to be drip fed to the reader but the main thing I'm taking away from your last post is that it needs to be dripped a lot faster. Amy being the bad guy was meant to be a big reveal but it sounds like it needs hinting at earlier.

quote:

You might also want to consider changing up how you're interleaving the Tom and Martha POVs. Because the Martha POV came in after so many Tom POVs without Tom and Martha interacting, I made the assumption that I'm was reading a single protagonist novel, so then got irritated about having to read about a little old lady taking a bus to London when I wanted to see Tom check out his first solo ghost report.
I think I could use specific suggestions on this. My only thought is to do all of Tom's bit then all of Martha's bit. I tried that first and it ended up a bit disjointed since in the third act they're interacting. Any ideas? Or if Martha is more obviously supernatural might that be enough to keep it flowing?

quote:

How does Amy becoming involved with a guy and getting pregnant result in her losing her credentials? Wouldn't that be a pre-requisite step to ascending to mother? Who grants the credentials in the first place?
Right. So Amy lost her virginity a long time back (no longer a maiden) but didn't have a child until recently (not yet a mother). Part of the theme of the book is these old traditions no longer working well with modern living. (At the very end it turns out magic has got with the times a bit Tom is the new maiden, and sets him up for being the first male witch).

quote:

- unclear how Amy the necromancer is linked (or not linked) to Zanthir (the Big Bad)
- there's mention of a prophecy that Martha follows, but does it relate to Zanthir, or to how the coven establishes and maintains itself? Was the prophecy in the tea leaves?
- is the future maiden a random person Tom hooks up with or is it Megan (his gf/wife/partner as hinted in his POV)?
Yes, the prophecy is the tea leaves. Or rather, reading tea leaves is Martha's way of divining it.
The maiden (or the person you think is the maiden) is a random person. (Megan's actually his cat. The reveal is a joke to show how little he has going on in his life)




quote:

Ah! I thought they were official and government sanctioned but the kind of organization where you'd need high levels of security clearance to know about (because they're called "Unit 13" and the previous version had a fancy lobby and the office set up seems very governmental). Did not get shady vibes at all, in fact I thought they might have been like a S.H.I.E.L.D. like organization or something.
They're official but also underfunded and bureaucratic. Like every other government organisation. Maybe this bit needs some work.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


FightingMongoose posted:

I think I could use specific suggestions on this. My only thought is to do all of Tom's bit then all of Martha's bit. I tried that first and it ended up a bit disjointed since in the third act they're interacting. Any ideas? Or if Martha is more obviously supernatural might that be enough to keep it flowing?

Broadly speaking, you've got a couple of options:
1. Interleave the POVs pretty early on, so it's clear there are two main characters
2. Do a self contained arc for one character, then switch to the other, ensuring the second one also gets a self contained arc that advances the overall plot, then bring them together
3. Start with one POV character, have them meet the other character, then switch to the second character's POV for the majority of the remaining chapters. You then have the option of going back to the first character in an epilogue or something.

Figure out the point at which their plot lines will intersect in terms of where that sits with the overall plot structure, and that should give you some ideas of which options might work better.

Also just read more, write more looking specifically at books in your genre that do this well and analyzing what they did and why it works.

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newts
Oct 10, 2012


I’m not great at crits, but I’ll give you my quick impressions as a reader.

I’ll disagree a little bit with Leng and say that I did not mind the shifts away from Tom to the other characters. I’m not usually a fan of multi-POVs in my urban fantasy, but I thought you handled it well. I was not bored during the shift to Martha’s POV, because it was obvious that her story was going to connect the larger narrative. I think it’s fine to trust your readers sometimes with the introduction of new characters and plots with the expectation that they will be important later. On that note, the level of foreshadowing was also fine to me. I’m good with vague at the start as long as it builds during the narrative.

The prologue was really the only part that didn’t work for me. It was close, though. I needed a bit more of an introduction to the characters. Yes, I know Chris is eaten right away, but having Tom interact and reflect on Chris (since Tom is the POV character) could be used to build Tom’s character up. The guy’s transition to a monster was too abrupt. And, as Leng pointed out, why the hell did he answer the door? It’s a plot hole that bugs me. Overall, the prologue is too brief, it’s over too quickly. I do appreciate that you were going for a hook that grabs the reader right away—and it did—but it could be expanded just a bit to add more detail, more characterization for Tom. I can guess that you were trying to convey that Tom is in a bit of a bad way after watching his friend get eaten, but his question about the job opening at the end comes across as callous rather than the result of shock.

Smaller things:

-Your writing is deft and a joy to read. I have no issues with that at all.
-Watch your POV. It feels like you’re going for 3rd person limited observer, but sometimes you drift toward omniscient observer. Example: when Tom is staring at nothing out of the car window and yet the narrative is aware of the suited man staring at him. It’s not something Tom would be able to see. There were a couple times this happened and it was jarring to me (may not bother other people)
-I still don’t really know Tom, although it honestly didn’t bother me too much because I got the sense that I will get to know him as the story unfolds. I know Martha more, even after her relatively short introduction. Her voice has more character. I kind of get the impression Tom is a ‘go with the flow’ kind of guy, which can sometimes make characterization difficult. So, just something to watch, I guess?
-The mystery is interesting and I could see myself continuing to read.

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