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Sancho Panza
August 2nd, 2003, 12:21 PM
"Chapter 1, The Execution" is actually a rough draft first Chapter for the novel I am working on, tentatively titled "Exodus." It is a hybrid Sci-Fi Fantasy story with a leaning towards fantasy. I think it can stand alone, and am writing the novel so that each chapter is a story unto itself.

Please do not be afraid of being critical! I have thick skin, and want nothing more than to improve my craft. If you see areas that can be improved, have problems with the style, or anything else, I am happy to have your opinions.

Thanks, the story can be found here:

Chapter 1 - The Execution (http://www.sffworld.com/authors/b/barnes_jd/fiction/ch1execution1.html)

James Barclay
August 2nd, 2003, 04:04 PM
Have moved this thread to the Writing forum where it should have been posted...


August 3rd, 2003, 11:31 PM
I had a brief look and liked what I read. I'll critique it in the near future. At the moment I'm up to my neck in critiquing on various sites.

Sancho Panza
August 6th, 2003, 02:40 PM
Sorry about posting in the wrong forum, NOM.

Thanks Milamber, I appreciate any advice you might give.

James Barclay
August 6th, 2003, 05:03 PM
It's no problem, Sancho.

I hope you enjoy your times at SFFworld, glad to have you aboard.

August 9th, 2003, 07:21 PM
Well Sancho, after several posts you still seem to have no critique. Which is a shame because this is genuinely one of the best pieces of writing I have seen on this forum in some time; I would strongly urge other members to give this a perusal.

Notwithstanding the inevitable slips which can be ironed out by careful proof-reading you seem very accomplished stylistically. You balance adjective and action well, which I find the most difficult aspect of writing.

Less well balanced however, is the ratio of background detail to narrative. Lengthy sections of exposition on the history of places and people produce a somewhat stilted feel to the action. For a first chapter it may be better to leave an element of mystery to certain elements and provide only a descriptive commentary; thereby hooking the reader in to find out more of the places history in subsequent chapters.
On a similar vein, your opening may work better if, rather than taking the reader into the heart of the city alone, you have the narrative follow the column of men through the city. For instance you may want to follow a given character and thereby introduce the emotions inspired in them by their surroundings; as opposed to the relativly analytical approach as it stands.

At any rate that is my tuppence worth. I have of course, purposely sought aspects to criticise in this piece. I would therefore conclude in reiterating that it was extremely adroitly written and I'll look forward to seeing subsequent chapters (hint, hint).

August 10th, 2003, 09:32 AM
Since you say you don’t mind critical reviews and you have thick skin, I will give my 2 cents:

I’m not sure this story can stand alone, nor am I sure that intentionally writing each chapter as a can stand short story is a good idea. A novel builds upon itself, with foreshadowing and interwoven plots. Stand alone chapters would interfere with that process. What you’d be left with is an anthology of short stories, not a novel. I am curious, why would you want the chapters to stand alone?

At any rate, my review will be from the first chapter in a novel stand point, not the stand alone story because they are two very different structures.

You specify that this is a “rough draft” so I will keep my comments to things that will assist in polishing it.

1. The most obvious to me was the beginning. I know you may hate the idea of completely reworking it, but I think a novel will require it.
A. First of all I realize that the God’s Tower may play a larger roll in the coming chapters, but there were 917 words before we even met the first character, Corym. Let me ask this, who is the antagonist of the novel? Will it be the stranger, or perhaps Lord Manryk Dunmere, or even Corym (if he should survive chapter one)? The antagonist (or his agent) should make an appearance early in the story. Much earlier than any of your characters do.
B. And although the description of the city is decent, it shouldn’t dominate the story. After all the story isn’t about the city, or at least chapter one isn’t about the city. It is about the attempted execution. Consider what the focus of this chapter is. What function does it serve in the novel? What exactly do you want the reader to glean from this chapter that will set them up for later chapters? Once you have those answers, you will be better able to tighten the writing in the first chapter.

2. The next thing that struck me about the story is the use of passive verbs. The first paragraph is saturated with them:
“The City to the Stars was only truly visible by night. By day the sprawling ruins were covered by the greenery and verdure of a place long lost to mankind. One might walk along the main boulevard never noticing that the stones that threatened to twist ankles were parts of a vast, straight stretch of road, never seeing the toppled buildings and over-grown by-ways along its sides; instead all too conscious of the weeds, the shadows, the aging trees that hung over it, that penetrated right through its foundations. To the sun, it was merely a tangled chaos, but to the stars, it was a city indeed.”

Every sentence has a passive verb, nearly every phrase. It’s not until approximately 1713 words into the story (coinciding with when the action starts) that the passive verbs take a back seat to action verbs. For half the story passive verbs are prevalent.

Well, that’s about it for now. Like I always say, take it or leave it as you please, it is only one person’s opinion.

a/k/a KATS

August 16th, 2003, 03:45 PM
Stop being lazy. You're talking too much. I barely made it through the first page. Show us that people revere it, show us what's happening. Why not rewrite it with your demon-machine arriving in the town, asking questions, perhaps barred when he tried getting close to it during daylight which is why he goes back at night. Or start with the action, expanding on your concentrated story to suggest or fill in the information we need along the way.

Go read your begining again, then read this and tell me which story you'd want to read.

"Look! Someone's climbing God's Tower!"
"Get him!"
"Ferran! Ferran! Wake up man! We need the death hook!"

Something hit the tower under the climber then fell with a clatter. The climber paused to look down. The moonlight glinted off of the points of a grappling hook, making sparks as the thrower dragged it back to him, as if he was afraid to come closer.

Only the suicidal or the desperate came to the foot of what they called God's Tower to drag away the fallen bounty of aging steel. It was clear the hook served to drag back the bodies of the unlucky....

August 24th, 2003, 06:11 PM
I just finished reading your first chapter and I must say that I L-O-V-E your descriptions. You described everything so well that I could actually imagnie myself there. Another thing you succeded in doing was making the reader understand the importance of the tower.


I must agree with Expendable that It'd be more enjoyable to start with the action, at least for the average reader. But it's really hard for me to tell u to erase those excellent descriptions and I can imagine it's ten times harder for u, so if there is any way u could put them later in the chapter or in later chapters that would be perfect. It might make the readers wonder why it's such a big deal that someone climbed the tower but it might make it a different reading experiance to understand it later. So I definitely think u should take notice of what Expendable said.

And on that note- Expendable, u seem to be a very helpful reviewer, I'd appreciate it if u take a look at my story and review it in my thread. Here's a link to my thread- http://www.sffworld.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6122

Back to the point
Another "problem" in your first chapter is that I couldn't spot a main character. I don' know if it was intentional but u didn't make me identify with any of the characters and therefore no one seemed to be a main character. It might have been just me though.

the bottom line- I think u're an excellent writer, and u definitely made me curious there, with a bit of "moving things around" it'd be perfect.

Lucky Joe
August 27th, 2003, 08:30 AM
Hi Sancho Panza,

I just read your story and really enjoyed. I agree with what has already been said, you need to introduce your characters earlier and show us the city through their eyes.

Other than that I liked it a lot - sorry I'm not much of a critiquer.

Oh by the way, I agree with KATS, not sure I see the point in writing each chapter as a stand-alone story. Now that I've read the first chapter I want to find out what happens next, but if you jumped to a different style or pov I'm not sure it would work all that well.