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May 18th, 2007, 08:19 AM
Hi, Iíve always been interested in writing, but have been too busy with other stuff. Iíve been an avid reader for half a dozen years though. Now I have a short story or sorts which I want to act as my prologue to a larger full length novel (which will be my hsc 4U English work for those in nsw).
So yeah, Iíd appreciate any comments/feedbacks on my story. It reads like junk, but I donít know how to refine it....

So hereís the link:


James Carmack
May 19th, 2007, 04:50 PM
Well, let's get right down to business, shall we? You've got a decent story here, but it's a good thing you're aiming on making this a part of a full-fledged novel as there's more plot going on here than the current container can handle. A short really can't support two leads very well and herein lies the main problem with this piece. Who's story is it? The Seventh Squad's or Elezar's? It really can't be both. You establish the 7th first, so they're who we identify as our protagonists. Elezar should be just a side chara, but he ends up eclipsing our supposed leads in the end. There's not enough room to tell both stories well. You either stick with the 7th or you stay with Elezar.

One thing that really bugged me was your use of numerals. As a general rule, you should always write out numbers less than ten. I would go further and say that any number three syllables and under should be written out. That goes for ordinals, too. Ergo, for starters, our initial protagonists should be written as "Seventh Squad".

Your dialog tags were wonky, too, but I see this a lot. I think I'm going to make up a guide so I don't have to retread this issue for every author I deal with. I'll post the link when I have it made.

Time for the quibbles...

Page 1
Nozoki: You use the curious phrase "peeked a glance". Either peek or glance. Don't try to do both.

A Very Bad Accent: Elezar supposedly pegs the 7th by the "distinctive brogue" of its members. The only problem is that all of their dialog is perfectly standard. If a character's gonna have an accent, we should be able to see it in the text.

Elezar's X-ray eyes: How is it that Elezar is able to ID the elven members of the 7th when they're masking their appearance? Mad assassin skills, right?

What's in a Name?: You need to decide what the inn is called. You've written it "Patron inn", "Patrons Inn" and, on Page 5, "Patron's Inn". I don't think you use the same name twice in the whole story.

Chime and Rhyme: How do you chime into a game?

What's Sielhu?: Sielhu is very special. While being introduced as a female, "she" is later revealed to be a dude. I knew a guy who stumbled onto something like that. I can't say he didn't have it coming, but what did we, the readers, do to deserve this gender bender?

Page 2
who's Sarge?: While you later reveal that "the Sergeant" is Leipol, the first time you refer to Sarge, we have no idea who you're talking about.

Storytime: Spilling out Elezar's backstory is really awkward. There are ways you can make a flashback work, but this isn't the time or place for it. This ties in to my complaint about you being unable to decide on who you want to be your main lead in this piece. Even with Elezar as our main, the full retelling is unnecessary. A brief synopsis is all we need in a short like this, particularly one that has so much else going on.

Burnt or Burning?: In Elezar's flashback (which I favor excising anyway, at least in the context of this piece as an independent short), you describe the manor as being "either burnt or burning". It's either one or the other. If you've got eyes in your head, you can probably tell.

Upgrade: From the 7th's perpective, Elizar is referred to as a "spy" until the descriptor abruptly becomes "assassin" while Koubal is tailing him. How did we come to know Elezar was an assassin? We didn't. Due to the limits of the perspective, we don't know what our active leads don't know and here we don't know Elezar is an assassin.

Page 3
Comedy Hour: How is "Why don't you just go and join your parents?" a joke? Riele is a sucky comedian.

Page 4
Gallows Humor: Exactly why is Llewyn fearing the gallows if their plan is exposed to the Assassins' Guild? Is it common for assassins in that neck of the woods to execute by hanging? How orderly of them.

Page 6
Strangers with Candy: If some total stranger told you it wasn't Old Man Brady who ran over your dog but your best friend Leroy, would you believe them? If so, why? Even if Leroy's not your best friend, maybe not even so much a friend as an acquaintance, why would you give credence to the word of that toal stranger? More importantly, why would you listen to the word of that total stranger while he's killing the guys at your office? Elezar has absolutely no reason to trust the 7th and the fact that he gets suckered in so easily reflects rather poorly on him as an assassin. If word gets out, any mark can talk their way out of it? "I'm not the guy you're supposed to kill. It's actually my evil twin brother Hans who stole the original contract and sent you a forgery." Elezar, of course, believes every word of it and goes about his business. I would hope not. About the most plausible way you could swing it is to actually have the 7th overpower Elezar, then spare his life, maybe even temporarily sheathe their weapons as a gesture of goodwill. If not goodwill, threaten him with death if he doesn't cooperate (a curse from one of the mages that'll kill him unless they break the spell... after services are faithfully rendered, of course). Although I doubt Elezar has a craven fear of death, his revenge is too precious for him to surrender. Only then, perhaps, would he have enough motivation to fight and kill his erstwhile comrades. (Otherwise he has no reason not to turn on them in the heat of battle.)

"commandingly replied" How do you commandingly reply?

Jade Dragon: I'd love to know how this fight has left Llewyn jaded. Even if it has, that's not generally something you're able to tell right away.

Kinder, Gentler Captors: Tell me, why would the Guild do nothing to Sielhu just because they don't know who "he" is? You'd think assassins of all people would resort to a little "persuasion" to get answers.

Page 7
Scene of the Crime: You don't clarify until later that Lord Cathys hired assassins from the Guild to kill Elezar's parents. Since Elezar saw Cathys at the scene of the manor's destruction (which really defeats the purpose of hiring assassins), the 7th's claim seems even weaker. The way you present it, it seems like you're absolving Lord Cathys of any guilt at first. This needs to be straightened out.

"self-belief": What is "self-belief"? As your native tongue is Mandarin, I'm guessing you've got something the same or similar to " 自信 " which could literally be interpreted as "self-belief", but "confidence" is a more accurate translation of the concept, overconfidence in Shielhu's case. Pride might be the better way to describe it.

Humble Pie: For all "his" pride, Shielhu's been humbled rather dramatically here. Unless Shielhu was mentally broken during "his" capture, I don't see it happening.

Hand or Head: Although you later make it clear, it seems a lot like Elezar's priorities on revenge get shifted to the Guild. Just because Lord Cathys contracted the Guild doesn't lessen his guilt. It's not until the aftermath that we realize that he's still gunning for Cathys.

Page 8
"It would be a privilege to our squad if you considered joining our particular squad." See if you can spot the redundancy.

Stars in the Eyes of 7th Squad: Why are battle-hardened veterans like the 7th so impressed with Elezar? What has he done that's so admirable? I'm not saying Elezar isn't a good, talented kid who helped them out, but it's not like he's a boddhisatva or anything.

Elezar's Mental Miasma: On two occasions you describe Elezar's memories as "miasma". I would disagree with such usage on general principle, but even if I didn't mind it, it's not something you should use more than once. Redundancy is the devil. Remember that.

Page 9
I Know You: I would say that a number of years have passed since the time Elezar's parents were killed. How is it that Lord Cathys knew who Elezar was? I mean, if you were getting your freak on and some psycho kid with a knife busts into the room demanding to know why you killed his parent, are you going to be all "Hey, I know you! The Simmons kid. Spittin' image of your old man, son. They'd be all sorts of proud... except for the whole serial killer thing. Now, would you mind stepping outside for like, oh, five minutes or so? Thanks, slugger. I really appreciate it."

And there you go. Bottom line: You've got a story that can be something, but you've still got some work ahead of you. Keep at it.

May 20th, 2007, 01:33 AM
Hey, thanks for the feedback. As I said, very raw and I have very little experience in writing...
I'm a bit busy atm with school and stuff, but I'll get to it in a few days hopefully.

James Carmack
May 20th, 2007, 06:23 AM
Take your time. I'm not in any hurry.

James Carmack
May 21st, 2007, 06:28 AM
Okay, here's that guide to dialog tags I was promising in my critique:


May 21st, 2007, 10:27 AM
"The 7th squad entered the city of Saracys, hiding in the masses of refugees seeking shelter. " - Since this is the beginning, I'd like to read more that establishes where/when they are, what type of world it is, colors, scenery, vegetation, etc

"stashed miserably" - Made me think of an object rather than a person.

"and the disease is very nasty" - That made me giggle ;)

"In a flash" - Gives a really weird visual--like some kind of magic/fireworks hop/jump.

I like the character names, very distinctive.

"I said that Brawyn was physically incapacitated, and that it was contagious." - I like the idea of the sentence but "physically incapacitated" doens't seem to fit as something that would horrify the guard.

"Their distinctive brogue and his sharp eyes prying out the figure of an orc, and the distinguishing ears of the elf, had convinced him that these travelers were concealing something, and he scampered off the rooftop and into the nearby Patron inn, reporting to his immediate superior of the arrivals.
" - Very convoluted. I'd organize it into seperate sentences and keep any repetition parallel -- If you're making a list at the beginning of the reasons he is watching them, I would write...."their brogue, (their) elvish ears, (their) orc-like figure" It'll flow more smoothly than alternating.

chimed into the game - chimed?

dark secluded corner and unremarkable face don't mesh well for me. The fact of him being in a secluded corner is making him remarkablee and then you go on to mention his sharp eyes.

sight that presented itself to him. - Awkward wording and it'll be more grisly to the reader to read the details of the sight.

The revenge concept comes up too soon, it'll be more powerful if what is being lost has its importance established first.

"Inside, his excited mind dizzied by the cacophony, recited the password, and retreated into the backroom and through the hidden entrance." -- Too many ideas happening at once. Also "excited mind....recited the password," is he thinking it or saying it?

Stunned into silence, they continued walking back to the Patrons, furiously trying to solve this roadblock. - Are they stunned into silence, or silent because they're trying to figure out a solution to their problem?

He looked around panicking, -- Awkward word choice there.

"Dirty rats," Koubal said conversationally as he methodically cleaned his dagger on the dead man's tunic, "I hate them." -- I like this a lot :D

"Stop! That's Elezar!"
The squad froze, watching Elezar who had become intrigued by the calling of his name. -- Intrigued by the calling of his name just doesn't sound like a normal reaction to people yelling 'Stop! That's X!'

He seems to give up the weaknesses of the city very easily--that's some incredibly dangerous information both for the city and for the guild.

Lots of ideas in here. That's just what my novel's first draft looked like. I think mostly everything just needs fleshing out. Right now it's very rushed and hopping from one idea to the next.

(Thanks James for posting the link to dialogue, saving it for reference)

James Carmack
May 21st, 2007, 09:58 PM
"I said that Brawyn was physically incapacitated, and that it was contagious." - I like the idea of the sentence but "physically incapacitated" doens't seem to fit as something that would horrify the guard.

Borat was perhaps being a little too coy. Think of what kind of physical incapacitation was being implied. (Or is it just that my mind is in the gutter?)

I still want to know what's up with she-male Sielhu. I know elves are often portrayed as androgynous, but...

May 22nd, 2007, 08:01 AM
HA! That didn't even cross my mind.... maybe italicising the "physically" would help.... heh.... I didn't think I was still that oblivious to innuendo ;)

I kinda like the she-male ;) Someone's got to represent the trans/hermaphrodite population, right? (Now I'm wondering about the mechanics....is it like Ranma, change gender in water? Or night/day? Or is it just spontaneous?)

James Carmack
May 22nd, 2007, 09:10 AM
If it was a Jusenkyou curse, would Takahashi mind? Maybe you'd just have to pay her a licensing fee. And then, technically, Nan'niichuan and Nyan'niichuan would turn you into a male or female human respectively, so Sielhu would lose his/her elfiness whenever he/she changed. Unless there's a "Spring of Drowned Boy/Girl Elf". I don't know the Mandarin reading for "yousei" and "seirei", though. Shoot, that's where Borat comes in. Hey, chief, what's the romanization for " 精靈 " and " 妖精 "?

Maybe you could take the Futaba-kun route and just have excitement or stress cause the change. Hopefully not while taking the Futaba-kun route of exploring those themes Takahashi wasn't going to touch with a ten-foot pole in Ranma. ^_^;

May 24th, 2007, 06:22 AM
Haha, while I'm fluent in Mandarin, I have zero knowledge about how to write it...Growing up in Australia....:p
But according to my mum, they both mean 'ghost' or something like that....The first one being a 'good' one who plays tricks...the second one being a ghoulish evilly one.

And I'll get the feedback/rewriting over the weekend...which is when my exams will finish. Thanks a lot everyone again.