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Woadwarrior
June 6th, 2006, 01:58 AM
Hello every one.

I've started writing a small practice story in order to refresh my writing skills for future projects. There isn't much plot or character development in this story (it's only going to be two chapters). Its basically a short 'military action' type of thing. I just want to know what you folks think of it. I'll be starting on the second chapter soon, but I'd like to hear some feed back on this if anyone has anything to say. :)

http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/1587p0.html

BrianC
June 6th, 2006, 07:22 AM
The passivity of the opening passage strikes me as quite a problem. You should consider working in some more active verbs. To illustrate, here is the entire first page with everything but the subjects and verbs excised (with independent clauses treated as sentences):
The Izaen Sea is. Danger did exist. Danger isn't. Issues erupted. Wars could be drawn out. It would be known. Fighting would not last. Causalities would be. It would show. It would be.

Submarine was conducting. Crew had. Atmosphere would be enough to affect. Danger kept.

Crew were gazing. Aircraft were. Crew remained. One remained.

Crew was busy. Some chatted.
Is. Is not. Could be. Would be. Somnolence. Given this passivity, your title seems ironic.

In addition, many of the sentences suffer from a torturous construction. Take this sentence, for example:
The claustrophobic atmosphere on board any submarine would be enough to affect the mind of any individual, giving them that the attributes of minor insanity and a strong attachment to one another through out their existence together.This sentence does not "flow"; the reader must read several times to take its meaning. Moreover, you attribute two effects to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the submarine, but--while there is nothing wrong with this--the effort to describe both attrributes in one sentence ends up creating a muddle. You might consider writing in a more straightforward, simple style.

While it is not my place to rewrite your words, here is a suggestion for the sentence above to illustrate what I am saying:
The claustrophobic atmosphere affected the minds of the submariners, easing them into a subtle insanity. Yet the shared privation gave them a strong attachment to one another.

Woadwarrior
June 6th, 2006, 09:05 AM
Fantastic, thank you very much. :) In fact, the suggested rewording of that paragraph is pretty good, I think I'll change it to just that.

But I would also like to ask is what you think of the chapter overall. I know that I would probably need to do some more work on my writing style (which I will be doing, and with feedback like yours, I will probably be able to adapt rather quickly. ;) )

I'll give a more detailed response to your post later. Right now I don't have the time to write. I just want to say that I do accept your criticism and will take it into consideration in later projects, but I do have some other things to say.

BrianC
June 6th, 2006, 01:30 PM
But I would also like to ask is what you think of the chapter overall.Well, have you ever been in the military? I ask because the chapter does not *sound* authentic. I was in the army. My dad was in the navy 20 years. My best friend was actually a dolphin (submariner) in the navy. Another friend is an army officer (just about to come back from Iraq.) I have read and studied a lot of military history. Given all that background, when I was reading the first chapter, I was not convinced of the authenticity of the characters or the situations. For example, no way would the watch officer in your story openly challenge the orders of the submarine commander (he may have private reservations) and there's no way the commander would allow such a challenge. I would suggest that you do lots of research into the military before revising.

Plus, the passage contains a number of factual errors that made me drop out of the story and go "what?" For example, after the lookout on the conning tower of the submarine spots smoke on the horizon, the captain determines that it is three enemy destroyers changing course to intercept the submarine. Problem is that this sighting is supposed to be 30 kilometers away. This converts to a little over 18 miles! Even with powerful binoculars a person could not see that far, much less determine the type and nationality of the ships, and it is even less likely that the ships would have spotted the very small profile of the submarine at that distance. You should keep in mind that every factual assertion that you make must be plausible on its face--or plausibly explained--to keep your reader *in the story.*

Woadwarrior
June 6th, 2006, 02:43 PM
Well, have you ever been in the military? I ask because the chapter does not *sound* authentic. I was in the army. My dad was in the navy 20 years. My best friend was actually a dolphin (submariner) in the navy. Another friend is an army officer (just about to come back from Iraq.) I have read and studied a lot of military history. Given all that background, when I was reading the first chapter, I was not convinced of the authenticity of the characters or the situations. For example, no way would the watch officer in your story openly challenge the orders of the submarine commander (he may have private reservations) and there's no way the commander would allow such a challenge. I would suggest that you do lots of research into the military before revising.

You're absolutely correct in this regard. I wasn't in the military before and, as such, really have a hard time making people sound authentic. I've done a lot of research (years of it, in fact) in regards to equipment and tactics, but little in regards to protocol and behavor. I'll be doing my best to learn more and more about these and I am doing so as of this moment. Don't worry about it, it will get solved, and hopefully soon. ;)

But just one question, though. If a real life watch officer really did voice a challenge of sorts, what WOULD have happened? Would the sub skipper make an order for a court martial or something?

And one more thing. Could you give me some hints on making military characters more authentic? This is something completely new to me as I've never written anything military in nature before (fantasy adventurers yes, but modern military stuff no).



Plus, the passage contains a number of factual errors that made me drop out of the story and go "what?" For example, after the lookout on the conning tower of the submarine spots smoke on the horizon, the captain determines that it is three enemy destroyers changing course to intercept the submarine. Problem is that this sighting is supposed to be 30 kilometers away. This converts to a little over 18 miles! Even with powerful binoculars a person could not see that far, much less determine the type and nationality of the ships, and it is even less likely that the ships would have spotted the very small profile of the submarine at that distance. You should keep in mind that every factual assertion that you make must be plausible on its face--or plausibly explained--to keep your reader *in the story.*

That part didn't miss me either. I just did it for the heck of it! :D

Seriously though, you're right about that and even I knew it from the start. I shall never repeat such a thing again, I promise.

But I should just mention that the commander ordered a crash dive since he was wanted to get in position for an attack as soon as possible. Going up against three destroyers is tough enough submerged, doing it on the surface is plain suicide! Especially in a 1930's era diesel electric boat.

And by the by, did you read on beyond the sub part or did you just stop there? I sorta get the impresstion that you didn't like it.

Thanks for the feedback once again, it will be useful. :)

kater
June 6th, 2006, 05:06 PM
Only read the first three pages so far and it's a mixed bag tbh. I think you have a clear idea of what you want to write but are stuck between a textbook and the story. All the things you say in the first three pages could easily be pared down to one, if your writing was more concise and clear. Obviously it's hard to give a verdict on storyline in three pages, I'll read more as and when I get the chance, but my main offering would be to find your own voice first, at the moment it's lacking direction and spark as a result. A few specifics below, hope this helps :)

'In this case, it would be known as a combination of both.' - no reference for 'it' - a war? war in general? should we care? Be more specific and less general in the opening paragraph, as BrianC suggested you're going nowhere fast.

The first sentence in the third paragraph could do with less of the word patrol - you're overdoing the point.

'the watch crew were gazing out as far as they could' - doesn't this go without saying?

The fourth paragraph doesn't flow at all, you're writing on the whole first page seems very stilted, as if you're struggling to strike a balance between information from a textbook and actual storyline. Too much of an info dump at the moment.

'the crew was busy' - were busy?

Non-naming of individuals in the boat, the radioman is 'radioman' yet the commander is David. By not naming individuals you've turned them into a group of nobodies who we don't care about.

'stoically gave out his order' - stoically for a 'nothing to report' response?

Top of page 3 - Destroyers would be visible on the horizon for quite a while even at top speeds, therefore a crash dive (then a return to periscope depth? is this even likely) seems to be forcing something dramatic for the sake of it. To add to that, the nature of submarine warfare is all about nerves and timing so if you're writing with a lot of action in mind I'd say you're in the wrong genre and should probably try for a suspense driven storyline.

'but their eagerness of what is to come could not go unnoticed.' - what was to come. You seem to have some problems recognising tense issues. Always think about your narrative voice and avoid deviating once it's set.

'Commander David remained silent until the submarine reached periscope depth before he went to the periscope and had it risen to the surface.' - again just very awkward phrasing, as a first draft it's understandable but when going through it try and be as concise as possible so that your meaning isn't lost.

I also think the whole 'prove ourselves' speech is very stilted, if they'd been training for years they'd know they were prepared - that's the point of drilling. Also military subs were first widely used in WW1, with your story set in the 1930's then unless your world deviates greatly from the real, some of those serving on subs 'for years' would have likely seen battle during WW1. Just a thought.

Woadwarrior
June 6th, 2006, 10:13 PM
Let me begin by saying that I should probably delete this story since there isn't any plot or story whatsoever. As I mentioned earlier, the whole basis is just to practice a bit for larger projects in the future, and those stories will have plots and real character development.

In all honesty, I have a love affair with detail, which is why I write so profusely. I see that now I must tone down my details and just get to the point.


I also think the whole 'prove ourselves' speech is very stilted, if they'd been training for years they'd know they were prepared - that's the point of drilling. Also military subs were first widely used in WW1, with your story set in the 1930's then unless your world deviates greatly from the real, some of those serving on subs 'for years' would have likely seen battle during WW1. Just a thought.

There was no 'world war 1' in my world. This is a complete fantasy story based in an imaginary fantasy world. It just so happens that they're using modern technology. Also, the setting is not the 1930's, its 1930-ish meaning similiar and but not totally the same. :)

Anyway, I'm going to remove the story now and simply give it an overhaul (by which I mean, delete it and start over) and then when I'm done with my refined chapter, using your advice to effect, I'll post it once more and see what you guys think of it.

Remember, these stories are currently practice, and not the real deal. I should have done this years ago (and that, I mean come to folks like you for advice and coaching) in order to improve my writing skills. Thank you all, you're being a great help.

Anyhow, I do have one small thing that I should mention. I am not used to writing serious works, as my previous style was basically farce comedy with more emphasis on the funny moments and gags rather than the actual story or plot movements, because of this, I would say that it will take some work before I reach some level of competance in this matter.

Thanks once again. :)

Woadwarrior
June 7th, 2006, 11:00 PM
Alright, I've written the first page of the new chapter, I'll be putting it in quotes over here for you people to see whether it's good or not.


Location: Izaen Sea. Date & Time: Hanth 21st, 166 AIW (After [the] Imperialist wars).

Standing on the conning tower, performing his normal duties, first watch officer Sover looked out for contacts on the bulging sea. He felt a coldness within him that was much stronger than the cooling breeze caressing his face. He and the rest of the sub’s crew were going to war for the first time. Political tensions had reached boiling point in Agicia, where the military dictatorship, fearing a coup by its discontent people, sought to play off long-standing feelings of nationalism by claiming to ‘liberate’ the Tren islands from being a protectorate of another nation and save it from the corruption which they claimed was being done to it.

Sover considered it ironic, that when Agicia invaded the islands after suffering heavy losses, the first thing they did was tear down all statues and monuments dedicated to peace makers and national heroes, and then demanded that the people submit themselves fully to their rule. All those who even hinted a protestation were shot. What was even more ironic was the fact their claim of liberation seemed empty, as talks and progress of a peaceful independence were going underway and it would only be a few short years before they had the Tren became fully independent, all without a shot fired.

Of course his nation wouldn’t stand for it, and neither would its allies. They had their task forces all sent in order to prepare a counter-attack and drive the Agician forces out of islands. How long will this little war last? One month? Two months? He didn’t know, and it was not within his place to know why or how, but to do and die!

He put down his binoculars for a moment and lit a cigarette. The day was still young, and they on the edge of enemy territory -- who knew what manner of adversary the day would bring.

Within the bow section of the sub, the torpedo personnel were hard at work servicing the electric torpedoes to insure that they would fire when needed. It was the dirtiest job on the boat, handling the torpedoes, but it was also very important for obvious reasons.

“Alright, we’re finally done,” said the torpedo mate to the mechanic. “The fluid level on that torpedo is on maximum and everything else is fine; there’s no chance of it malfunctioning when we need it.” The mechanic nodded in acknowledgement and then wiped his face with a handkerchief.

The torpedo mate sighed. “I need a drink. I’m so thirsty I’d kill my brother for a beer right now.”

The mechanic smiled at the torpedo mate’s comment. He always made them from time to time, saying that he’d kill a relative of his for something. Most of the time he just stayed quiet, but this time he wanted to say something in response. “I’m glad that I’m not related to you, sir,” was his response, all with his tongue held firmly in cheek.

Smiling was all the torpedo mate did, he never once thought that he’d ever hear this kind of banter from a normally serious crewmember who, at times, thought that his sense of humor was castrated and his speech utterly dull and devoid of anything other than working and technicalities.


So, do you think this section is good? It's just the start, after all, and I still have more to write (obviously!). Further more, I think I did some improvement to establish that it is a fantasy universe to begin with as I included the date which is obviously NOT something we measure in the real world. :)

As always, I strongly appreciate your responses and wait patiently for them.

kater
June 8th, 2006, 05:18 AM
Political tensions had reached boiling point in Agicia, where the military dictatorship, fearing a coup by its discontent people, sought to play off long-standing feelings of nationalism by claiming to ‘liberate’ the Tren islands from being a protectorate of another nation and save it from the corruption which they claimed was being done to it.

You need to break the above paragraph up, plus it would be 'discontented' people - although I'd find a stronger word if they were trying to overthrow the government.

What was even more ironic was the fact their claim of liberation seemed empty, as talks and progress of a peaceful independence were going underway and it would only be a few short years before they had the Tren became fully independent, all without a shot fired.

Disjointed phrasing you need to be more clear, for example were the peace talks just underway when the invasion attempt was made?, had they been going on for years? Also we don't know of which nation Sover comes from, is he from the Tren Islands or Agicia, it's not evident due to the ambiguity of the opening :) You need to be even more specific in tying down that he is part of a third, peace-keeping UN type faction - preferably by naming 'his nation'.

He didn’t know, and it was not within his place to know why or how, but to do and die!

Maybe this kind of thing looks good on a recruiting poster but not in a story, he is an experienced officer with enough intelligence to know differently.

Smiling was all the torpedo mate did, he never once thought that he’d ever hear this kind of banter from a normally serious crewmember who, at times, thought that his sense of humor was castrated and his speech utterly dull and devoid of anything other than working and technicalities.

The language is still forced, these two people know each other and on a sub you can't but talk to everyone around because these are the people you depend on for your life. Try to write it more like it was a conversation between you and a friend or even yourself and a teacher - personable but with the necessary division of authority.

It's much better than the first draft and I think once you become more comfortable with your writing style you have the makings of a decent tale :)

Woadwarrior
June 8th, 2006, 12:02 PM
You need to break the above paragraph up, plus it would be 'discontented' people - although I'd find a stronger word if they were trying to overthrow the government.

I assume you mean more punctuation. OK, I'll work on that. :) Also I believe you're right about finding a stronger word. Those folks wouldn't try to start a revolution unless they were really sick and tired of those in charge. Merely being discontented doesn't sound enough.


Disjointed phrasing you need to be more clear, for example were the peace talks just underway when the invasion attempt was made?, had they been going on for years? Also we don't know of which nation Sover comes from, is he from the Tren Islands or Agicia, it's not evident due to the ambiguity of the opening You need to be even more specific in tying down that he is part of a third, peace-keeping UN type faction - preferably by naming 'his nation'.

No they were not underway at the time of the invasion, they had been going on for more than a decade. Also it was between the Tren Islands, who are a sort of protectorate that came into possession of Sover's nation (which is yet to be named) some years back, and they had no imperialist intentions whatsoever, so they were willing to let the area go after a while and some talks. There's no 'UN' in my world or League of Nations or whatever.

I understand that I need to be more specific and informative, but one thing which I really need to know is this: When is it becoming necessary narration and when does it start being info-dumping? I don't want to info-dump since I consider it to be amaturish and silly at times.

Also, in regards to disjointing phrases, is it possible to avoid that by starting a new paragraph? A strange question, I know, but still...


Maybe this kind of thing looks good on a recruiting poster but not in a story, he is an experienced officer with enough intelligence to know differently.

He knows enough about the conflict to be willing to fight in it without hesitation, but the fact that he is indeed experianced (he was in the navy for 6 years prior to the start of the story, and he still has two more years left in his hitch before he's discharged.) is why he doesn't question his senior commanders. He trusts them to do the right thing and he believes that it is his duty to obey.

To top it all, the whole thing is politics and, to quote Odysseus from the movie 'Troy'. "War is young men dying and old men talking. You know this. Ignore the politics.
" And that's why he chooses to let things go and just do his job. ;)


The language is still forced, these two people know each other and on a sub you can't but talk to everyone around because these are the people you depend on for your life. Try to write it more like it was a conversation between you and a friend or even yourself and a teacher - personable but with the necessary division of authority.

Thanks for that tip. I'll change it more friendly and realistic right now. The big problem is that I have a hard time writing dialogue between folks of different ranks and rates in the military. I know that many of them that have been friends for a long time would probably relax their stances towards each other, but would a sergeant banter with a captain? Even if they were friends who go way back. I honestly don't know much about this, but I'll try. :)

And oh, by the by, I think that the torpedo mate is higher up in the rates (they're both enlisted and not commisioned officers) than a torpedo mechanic or technician in general.


It's much better than the first draft and I think once you become more comfortable with your writing style you have the makings of a decent tale

I believe that it is the content of the story that is more important. But you're right, the skill to portray it is indeed the thing that catches people on.

In these few days I've spent here, I've already learned quite a bit. I think I'll stick around some more to learn from your expert opinions. :)