Hi fellow writers, I am new here because I have a bad case of feedback hunger.
Could you please please check out my writing and help me fight my disease with a series of brilliant and helpful insights?
You're suffering from a terminal feedback deficiency and the Make a Wish Foundation sent you here? You could've gone to Hawaii, man. :P
Okay, I think I can spare a few words. There's not much to complain about here in terms of style and mechanics. The premise and execution are good enough to hold my interest for a while. I think the chapter stops come in a little too soon, but that's just my opinion. The breaks you have are logical enough, but if it was me, I'd probably merge all three chapters into one or start the second chapter once our nameless protagonist gets out of the forest.
The two most glaring technical faults lie with the dialog. With young Theo's first two lines, you have him speak and only afterward do you mention that there's an external voice speaking up. That's like having the bang after the guy doubles over. I honestly thought our hero was saying Theo's second line at first. You generally want to ID the speaker before they speak, particularly if they're off-screen. Yes, you can surprise us with the first line of O/S dialog, but not the second. Also, dialog tags shouldn't be capitalized when following a line of dialog.
Wrong: "I ate the chicken," Said the barber.
Right: "I ate the chicken," said the barber.
You particularly don't want to be capitalizing third-person pronouns. Unless the speaker is God, that is. It's one of the perks of creating the universe, doncha know.
Another detail that bugged me throughout was the fact that you originally pain a picture of our hero being in pretty crappy condition, but he proves to be awfully spry for someone sore, tired, hungry, thirsty, etc, etc. Is it impossible for him to do all the stuff he does? No, but it's going to take a good bit of effort. It'd be nice if the text reflects that.
Now let's go through some quibbles.
Earn It: Our hero wonders where he earned his back pain. Makes it sound like he had it coming.
Cellophane: This is the first item that has me questioning the setting and our protagonist. The setting appears to be fairly typical for fantasy, but cellophane is an item of modernity that implies that our hero (by virtue of the the first-person perspective) is from present-day Earth and has been displaced into this little fantasy world. Now, if this world has trappings of modernity like plastics (like some sort of alternate history science fantasy), then there's no problem. However, if our hero is a native of this world where cellophane doesn't exist, then it's a clear case of the author corrupting the narration. It's important to keep your narrative in world and in character. If the two don't agree, favor the character over the world unless you're using the third-person omniscient perspective. We'll revisit this point later.
2 Mile: This goes back to my earlier complain about our hero's inexplicable spryness. Walking two miles in perfect health is no small thing. Being in the shape he's in and being surprised that he's short of breath is simply stunning. Either he's hanging on by a thread or he's not. You need to decide precisely how bad a shape he's in.
One Fume, Two Fumes: Using "fume" in the singular is reserved for fairly specific cases. When speaking broadly, it's better to use the plural "fumes".
Sneakin' Sneakers: The mention of our hero's zapatos brings up the cellophane argument. What's the dealio?
Alien Autopsy: If there's a greater logic behind it, that's fine, but it takes a different sort of person to meet a dying dragon and then perform a post mortem. Unless this sort of behavior is tied to our hero's true identity, it's a little too weird to justify. You've got to keep suspension of disbelief in mind.
Fine Texture: You say the sword's texture definitely isn't metallic, but you don't give us anything more to go on. There's an old rule to writing: "Tell me what it is, not what it isn't." Bear it in mind.
Two-foot Giant: I get the strong feeling you meant to say "two-meter giant", unless our hero is some sort of gnome or brownie. If the figure's correct, ol' Osric is made of some seriously dense material. Twenty stones packed into two feet? I'd love to know how the dragon managed to kill him. As a side note, I discourage you from mixing English and metric measurements. For all involved, it's best to stick to one system or the other.
Young Lad: I don't know how it is where you come from, but I've never heard of a 30-year-old man referred to as a "lad" by anyone who's not a good two or three times older. I get the feeling our hero isn't quite that old. If he is, I reckon that's one way to allude to it.
Diagnosis Murder: When combined with the autopsy of the dragon, our hero's diagnosis of death by internal hemorrhaging pegs him as someone in the medical field. If not, you might want to rephrase things appropriately. "Internal bleeding" would be adequate for a layman, if that's indeed what our hero is.
Shiny New Pants: Apparently our hero doesn't want to mess up his new pants while digging out the spiteful dragon's eyeballs. What new pants? I'm guessing you mean the ones he swiped from Osric (which you never mentioned). Of course, Osric was found floating in the same swamp, apparently dead from fighting the dragon, so I have to wonder exactly what shape his trousers would be in. They couldn't be all that clean.
Seeming Undulation: Something either undulates or doesn't. Hills undulate. They don't just seem to undulate.
Forty Meters, No Sweat: Touching on the condition of our hero once more, I'd love to know how a forty-meter climb is no big deal. That's like scaling 13-15-story building. I hope I can do half the stuff this boy does if I'm ever as thrashed as he is.
Master Osric: If you're going to use "master" as a title, it needs to be capitalized, i.e. "Master Osric". However, as a knight, the title of "Sir" is more appropriate, for both squire (Theo) and anyone else.
Daddy's Sword: Our hero's been carrying around Osric's sword, right? It's a fairly distinctive weapon, right? Don't you think that'd be one of the first things young Theo notices when our hero saunters out? I mean, Theo isn't just Osric's squire, he's his son. He sure as heck better recognize his own daddy's weapon when some stranger's got it strapped to his hip.
Well, there you go. You've got your feedback. Now, keep in mind that this feedback isn't a cure. It'll only make your last days a little easier.
I still think you would've been better off with Hawaii. :P
May 12th, 2007, 12:24 PM
James, I can't say how much I appreciate your feedback!
Some of the things you point out relating to the protagonist's condition,
particularly his seeming strength and endurance, are simply tied to his lost identity.
The same is the case with his use of the word cellophane, and his 'medical' performances (I did have the protagonist wonder there). As you conjectured (and I applaud you!) the protagonist has been to modern day earth, and is displaced in a different, fantasy realm. But of course, remembering nothing, he doesn't feel any incongruence (or, one could say, that's all he feels). As the dragon implied, he's no mere mortal... at least, for now, as far as physical strength goes. But perhaps I should insert a couple of sentences to emphasize that fact.
I will need to fix a lot of technical mistakes you pointed out (my pathetic excuse for their existence would be that it's only the first draft... I know, I know, no excuses...), and probably hide the fact that Theo is Osric's son. Also you are especially perceptive with Theo not recognizing Osric's sword, but that's because, hold your breath... It ain't Osric's!!! I will have do some tweaking in the dialogue, have the protagonist say something like, "Here, I swear by Osric's blade I'm telling the truth," so that it'll make sense when the next chapter begins with our squire Theo pointing a dagger at the protagonist's throat. Thanks to the sword, Theo'll know that the protagonist's story is false, and the man is, well, untrustworthy. Dialogs really aren't my strong points, so I'll need a lot of work to improve.
If I post more chapters, and possibly make less mistakes would you like to keep an eye on them? Thanks again, James! My disease is all but cured!
May 12th, 2007, 07:33 PM
I'm less critical of some of the points I brought up now that I know they were both intentional and tied to the character. I was afraid you might've slipped out of the zone a bit. As long as the apparent incongruities get resolved, that's fine. I think the effects can be mitigated a bit, though, so the reader doesn't lose the suspension of disbelief. And maybe a reader who doesn't have his editor's cap on will have less of a problem with it. Feedback from some other people might shed light on the matter.
As for lending my eye to successive chapters and new iterations of what's been written, I'm more than happy to help. ^_^
May 12th, 2007, 07:56 PM
The begining didn't really grab me. You lost me after about the second paragraph. It was a combination of the writing and the scene itself. I think if you made the scene more urgent, made the surroundings really come alive and mysterious, it would prove to be more interesting. As for the writing, writing in first-person is hard and here it reads too passively.
"I was lying on wet ground,"
"I was in a forest, alright."
Just my opinion.
May 13th, 2007, 01:06 AM
James/ Dear James with cool cap, I spent some quality time in the morning with my writing, working with your suggestion. I will repost all three chapters in a single post in the stories section soon, while removing the three posts from yesterday. I don't think you'll need to read it to get on with the next chapter (which I will post tomorrow, fingers crossed), but if you've got some free time laying around in your pocket (and I hope you wear pants with many pockets), you are of course more than welcome to take a look. I don't want to nag you, nor do I want to cast away my dignity begging for further readership... Well, yeah, fine, you got me... I really don't mind either! ;)
Pennywise/ Pennywise, thanks for reading and commenting on my work. It's too bad my writing made a passive impression on you. From your comment and the two phrases you used from my writing, I get a feeling you'd much rather prefer action verbs? So something like, "The wetness of ground tickled my back, and a net of twigs and leaves spread before my eyes." instead of "I was..."? The reason for a lot of 'I's is partly due to the 1st person mode of narration, of course, but also due to the fact that my nameless protagonist is an egocentric and cerebral man, always tending to put himself at the center of the universe, with eyes that see things in their relation to him primarily (and how many people don't?). If such a characteristic is not at least a bit plausible by the third chapter, well, that means I have a lot of revision to do... :(
As for your critique on the lack of urgency and vitality of the surrounding, I don't really see how both can be achieved at once. Creating a sense of urgency would require a focus of attention by the narration (and in third person, either/both narration or/and characters) on the quicker development of events, which would naturally lessen the amount of attention that can be spent on surveying the backdrop. For example, if my protagonist started running out of the forest immediately after his awakening, I'd lose a chance to describe the cool crystal leaves and the nasty smell of decomposing dragon in a believable fashion.
I think Roger Zelazny did it fantastically in the beginning of Nine Princes In Amber, with short sentences and quick development, but then the backdrop of Zelazny's first chapter has nothing fantastical about it. Unfortunately, I'm not Zelazny, and my protagonist isn't Corwin. Which means I have a lot of hard work to do, and then some, plus plenty of luck. But my prologue, which I have not written yet, will attempt at the hooking effect.
So as of now, I can't immediately reflect your valuable insights in my writing. But you can be sure that I have noted them down, and I owe you a plenty of thanks for it. So thanks! :D
May 13th, 2007, 01:54 AM
Once you got it reposted, I'll give it another read-through. Until then, I've got to have speaks with Power to the J. *cracks knuckles*
May 13th, 2007, 06:02 PM
Just an update, I posted the fourth chapter just now. Take a look please if you would!
Well, we're moving right along in the misadventures of our poor, amnesiac hero. Got himself in quite the pickle, he has.
Not really much to complain about here. Yeah, there'd be spots I'd tag in a proper workshop, but for the cursory treatment I give in the forum, you're doing pretty well for yourself.
I do, however, have a few quibbles for you.
Biddy Nagging: Being bidden to rise isn't all that emphatic and it doesn't click with the previous description of being nagged mercilessly. "Force" or some equivalent would be a more appropriate verb choice.
"to a hike for water" You don't go to a hike. You go on a hike.
Ser Sandwich: It seems that you consistently have Theo refer to Osric as "Ser Osric". Why is this? Osric is a Germanic name, but "sir" is still "sir" in German. Maybe you're doing a strict transliteration from Cyrillic, but I doubt it. If it's meant to be a dialectic quirk of Theo's, none of his other dialog reflects any sort of non-standard accent.
"'This blade,' he was swinging about my blade[...]" You can't speak by swinging a sword, even if it's the signing variety. As this isn't a dialog tag, I suggest you make it a proper sentence, a bit of stage direction, and set off the initial dialog with ellipses. In other words...
"This blade..." He was swinging about my blade[...]
Really, that's about it. Barring a full-fledged workshop, I don't have much to say. I will warn you, though, that while it's your intent to make the protagonist egocentric and whatnot, an unlikable lead can drive away readers. I'm not saying you need to make him everyone's best buddy, but keep it in mind. If your commitment to his characterization outweighs any fears of alienating the audience (or if you feel that he will adequately redeem himself later on), then carry on.
May 13th, 2007, 10:16 PM
James, you really have to know how much I appreciate your feedback.
This is my first try at novel-writing, and none of my friends are into fantasy, even the ones that read profusely. So you sir, are pretty much the only source of serious feedback I've gotten so far. And I'm so glad for it.
I've fixed the things you pointed out, with the exception of sir & ser. I am using 'ser' as the formal title for addressing knights, and 'sir' as it is typically used nowadays- a respectful title for a male adult. But maybe I should just eliminate one or the other.
Well, my intention is to develop a shrewed character, but I also want him to be a likable one. So I was wondering how you personally (gasp) feel about the protagonist from what's written so far? I'm hoping all the toils that I will throw at him will earn him some sympathy. His trouble with Theo is nothing compared to what's coming!
Which brings me to the next question... I was reading the chapters over and thought that I might have portrayed Theo a little too timid in chapter 3. Did you find his words/actions implausible in chapter 4? If you did, any suggestions to make it better?