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Power to the J
May 11th, 2007, 07:09 PM
Here's Chapter 1...

PLEASE REVIEW!! Any sort of review/feedback, even just to tell me my writing sucks (although if that is the case I would like a reason why...), will be greatly appreciated and the favor will be returned! I swear!

This is a fantasy, and I'm just looking for a response, so read on please...

(:confused: for some reason indents didn't work... sorry!)

http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/2417p0.html

Power to the J
May 12th, 2007, 09:01 AM
C'mon people!

James Carmack
May 12th, 2007, 07:25 PM
Patience, dear boy. While I should be focusing on fulfilling my pledge to complete two new chapters of my SF novel, I'll do a read-through and brief commentary as soon as I get back from church. Deal?

pennywise86
May 12th, 2007, 07:43 PM
reads like a children's book where everything is explained right away ... intentional?

elphyon
May 13th, 2007, 02:25 AM
Dear J,

I find the first chapter of your novel to be too heavy with description, and almost totally lacking in an interesting event. It seems that you've got a complicating incident reserved for the next chapter, but is there a reason to not start with it? The first chapter's almost entirely dictated to Toner doing servant's work, which, to be honest, I found bland. So I think you'd better kick your horse hard and soon, and get the story on its way. In short, the balance between exposition/plot advancement is off.

Pertaining to the chapter itself, should you not wish to write a newer one with quicker pace, I think you ought to begin with the narrative focus on Toner, rather than the castle. I think you are more than capable of blending the details of the castle and the upcoming events in the actions Toner and his friends take. After all, they are preparing for it, right?

Also, I think a little too much attention is spent in the actions taken by Toner. I know it sounds contradictory, but as I wrote above, the tasks in which Toner engages are, well, aren't special. Instead of devoting a scene for each task and each encounter, I think you can condense more than 4-5 pages in the middle into few paragraphs.

Yet another suggestion concerns the description Toner's look. He's protagonist, so you shouldn't just say that he's 'handsome'. I can't picture what he looks like at all from your description, because you spend significantly fewer words describing the man himself than his clothes. Also the description of appearance comes at an awkward place. It seems... unwarranted. Why should a reader care what Toner looks like? Have some bully with inferiority complex made a demeaning remark about his face? Have some lady of court given him a "look"? The female servants their giggles? I'd like to see for myself, not simply be told everything. Show rather than tell, and when showing, leave us some room for our imagination to play.

Now, having said all the things I've said, I would like to commend you for writing. I've just begun to write my first novel too, and I know how daunting yet exciting it is to present it to peers and receive feedback. Also some of the criticism I've given you applies to my own writing as well. So I would like to see you keep on writing, as that in itself would be-should be-an encouragement to you. Thanks for the read, and let me know what happens to Toner!

James Carmack
May 13th, 2007, 03:27 AM
Okay, J, here we go. Strap yourself in.

I want you to imagine a swimming pool filled with warm taffy. Now put yourself in that pool, sink in about waist-deep. I want you to swim twelve laps. Go.

Not easy, is it? I hate to say it, but that's what it felt like reading your story. The prose drags something awful, packed with unnecessary details and written in a dodgy style that never seems to want to tell us straight-up what's what.

I'll give you credit for making an authentic experience. You flawlessly recreated all the tedium of a servant's life. It made me feel like I was putting in those long hours myself. By the end, my spirit was all but broken, priming me to be another fine cog in the machinery of the household.

It's one thing to set the stage. It's something else when you detail every stroke of paint on the background. I must ask why. Why do we need to have every little detail of every little chore Toner does all day? At the end of the chapter, I barely had enough morbid curiosity to wonder if anything actually happens afterward and let me tell you, there are few people out there with my level of morbid curiosity, nay, sheer masochism to slog through a taffy-filled swimming pool just to see what's on the other side.

We're all at different levels here. There's no shame in that. However, if you want people to read your stuff, you've got to give them a reason to. If I was a more heartless man, I would've given up on your story by about Page 3, but I stuck it out 'cause I knew that in order to give you a qualified opinion, I was obliged to stick it out until the end.

What do we learn from the chapter? Toner doesn't like Dlonad, he's all lovey-dovey with Anilor, awkward around Enyale, and scared of Master Norec. Well, that's establishing character relationships. That's not a bad thing, but taffy still tastes good even when it's in a swimming pool. Anything else? Not really. Any hint of what the greater plot might be? Not really. As near as I can tell, we've got 300 pages of chores ahead of us, despite a faint hint at the end of the chapter something interesting might happen tomorrow. This chapter has a lot of words that don't really get us anywhere and certainly doesn't give us much incentive to keep going. You could pare this chapter down to half, even a quarter of the length and you might be on the right track.

I'm good about giving this advice: Read the story aloud. If you don't feel dragged down by its verbosity, then maybe there's just something wrong with me, but I doubt it.

Unfortunately, the Stories section here on the site doesn't seem to support proper indents. A double space at paragraph breaks is about the best you can do. It's a good thing to do, because as it is, it looks like a giant run-on. That added to the whole pool of taffy effect. A better option would be to link to an off-site page where you have control over the appearance. The mods won't mind you posting a link if it's within the purview of the forum's purpose and not just a cheap plug.

As far as mechanics go, one of the most glaring mistakes I saw was with you're handling of dialog tags. First off, a dialog tag is not a separate sentence. You do this in too many places for me to think it's just a simple typo.

Wrong: "Arrest that private behind the tree." I said.

Right: "Arrest that private behind the tree," I said.

Next, you don't say questions, you ask them. So, when you've got a dialog tag for a question, the verb should be "ask", not "say". (To be fair, though, I have noticed authors who use nothing but "he/she/it said" no matter what the line is. It was one of the most frustrating things about State of Fear. Now I need to go back and see if Crichton does it in all his books.)

Now let's get a few quibbles in before we close this thing down.

Page 1
Dress for Success: If Toner was a private citizen, it would make sense for his uniform to be in disrepair, but he's a servant of the royal household. The way he looks reflects on his employers. If Regnilsnug is a kingdom on the rocks, that's understandable, but you make no hint of any such poverty. Any self-respecting king (and any vassals responsible for his and the state's image) are going to have the servants squared away. Maybe they servant's clothes have gotten all worn out 'cause of a miserly administration, only to provide new uniforms as part of the pomp and circumstance attached to Lord Bynoem's visit. That'd also be understandable, but the latter part of that wouldn't be revealed until the next chapter.

Page 2
"It did, however, have the most doors besides a Royal Sleeping Hall, but all of those doors were filled only with supplies." A Royal Sleeping Hall? How many are there? And why would there be so many doors in a "sleeping hall", royal or otherwise? Lastly, I can't fit too much in my doors, but I'm impressed that the castle's designers thought to build storage space into the doors. Now that's being space conscious. I'm sure they won an award for that one. If not, it's one of the greatest travesties in the history of architecture.

"[...]and began climbing up- only one level left- and heard[...]" When rendering dashes in plain text, use two hyphens (i.e. "--"). Also, never use spaces before or after dashes.

Page 4
Mouthing Loudly: "Loudly mouthed" and "loud-mouthed" are not one and the same. The former is an adverb-verb combo, not and adjective modifying Anilor.

Page 5
Hail the Head: You give Master Neroc the title of "Head Servant". This isn't necessarily wrong, but "Master of the Household" or "House Steward" are the more standard titles. "Head servant" would be more of a description. Now, if the so-called "Master of the Castle" fills the role of steward and you didn't want to use "Master of the Household", I'd wager that Neroc is more of a butler, maybe "Head Butler" if you must.

Regnil's Laboratory: Did you really mean to say that Anilor was cleaning laboratory floors or did you perhaps mean lavatory floors? If the former was intentional, I'll admit that the castle just got a bit more interesting.

Page 7
Fauna Exotica: Are "axet" and "nephet" typos or are these fantastical beasts native to your little world?

Page 8
Maidenhood: In describing Enyale as a maiden, you're saying that she's a virgin, not that she's a female servant. If that's what you meant, fine. Otherwise, use "maid" or "maidservant".

Page 9
Chunk's Speech Impediment: You start to give the guy with a scroll a unique accent, but you're not consistent. All his "you"s better be "ye"s. While you're at it, might as well give him some more idiosyncrasies while you're at it. 'Ave 'im drop 'is h's or something.

Page 10
If you meant for the argument between toner and Dlonad to come off as some impressive duel, I hate to tell you, but it looked more like an event out of the Special Olympics. Yes, I applaud them for using their limited abilities to the utmost. It's an admirable thing and deserves a cookie, but it's not that impressive. If you were being ironic, then carry on.

You may not be as jazzed about feedback anymore, but I'm not going to lie to you. As a reader, there's nothing to compel me to follow this story. I've only gotten this far by wearing my editor's cap. Trim it down, clean it up, streamline, and actually make something interesting happen and you might just be able to hold an audience. You can competently wield the language. That's a start. Now you need to learn how to make it dance.

Power to the J
May 13th, 2007, 11:32 AM
Alright so a major rewrite is due. Thanks all, and I'll repost it when the changes are made.