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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    Critique: "The Empty Ruins" by Death Dragon

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    Comments on style:

    To start with: You start with describing a bunch of things, and your opening paragraphs all begin with an article of some variety. While there’s nothing wrong with this as such, it’s a fairly standard way to open a story of this type, and you may want to experiment with jumping right into the action. For example, when Derek does not turn around from the voice behind him, perhaps note that there is only one set of footprints through the snow. This isn’t something you need to do, but you should play around with it, and openings about people are generally more interesting.

    “said adverbly”: You seem to use this format a bit, but it is (or should be) unnecessary, and it tends to bog down your work. For example, the first time you use it: “’Alec,’ Derek replied. He did not turn around.” You still get the same effect as your original statement, but it’s more concise and the word “replied” is less obtrusive than “replied cooly.” We know he’s cool. It’s very easy and natural to imagine a single syllable spoken in monotone, and to add to this impression he doesn’t turn around or, indeed, react in any way. You do a good job of using these external things to make us realize how the characters feel, and you can almost just completely get rid of the adverbs without changing much else.

    The conversation seems to be mostly exposition. I don’t really get a sense of camaraderie between these two, except for them saying they were once comrades, or, really, much of anything else. They mostly just explain the plot, which is bad. Try making the conversation more organic, and remember than everything doesn’t need to be spelled out. You can imply or even leave out.

    The talk-fight-die structure really doesn’t give much of an arc for Derek. He doesn’t really seem changed by these events, and they really don’t offer much significance to the reader. This kind of ties in with my comments about dialogue, since significance to the reader is partially created by relatable characters, but as-is this is just a story about some stoic guy executing his duty. If the centerpiece for your story is going to be a fight then this fight should express some internal struggle, which you did a little bit, but it’s so vague that it’s hard to relate to.

    Characters and Plot:

    The characters are basically archetypes to me. There doesn’t seem to be much to either of them beyond this, largely because they spend a lot of their dialogue explaining things to each other instead of talking like old friends. The plot is similarly too vague for me to get very invested in it, by and large. I had a very good idea of place and setting, it was easy to imagine where the characters are, but less easy to imagine what was going on with them. Try fleshing out the characters on your own. Not necessarily details that you’ll put in the story, but details for you to know when you write them. This will help flesh out the plot as well. You have, at least, the makings of something interesting here, but you need more depth, detail, and focus.

    Other stuff:

    After writing my thoughts, I went and looked at the other reviews. I would like to comment on Silver and Banjo’s comments on the fight scene. I thought this was one of the stronger points of your story. You manage to keep it brief while still giving us an idea of what’s going on, and we can fill in the details. Drawn out and detailed fight scenes tend to be boring and confusing. Also, remember that a fight given as much attention as this one shouldn’t be just a fight, it should give external meaning to some internal conflict. The details you give about the fight should reflect this.


    Critique: Heartstone by Alarra

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    Preliminary note: I quote the story a few times, and tried to tell where the quote came from as often as I could. However, to save from counting paragraphs, I sometimes left this out, knowing that you can just search through the document or use alt+f on the website.

    Fist off, a lot of the story was confusing, and many things seem out of place. For example:

    “There were lines I shouldn’t cross. Ailments that were so bad, so grievous, that curing them could kill me. But I could.

    As I moved to stand in the doorway of the next room, I could see her fragile form, almost skeletal beneath the sheets, the doctor bending over her, and a figure hunched in the chair by the bed.”

    We have no reference for this shift from internal narrative to external. Who is she? Is it the woman who’s back he just cured? Because that’s what it seems like, even though that can’t be true when I think about it. A few paragraphs later I’m fairly sure it’s Shala, I guess? He, “moved to stand in the doorway of the next room.” Next room from what? That phrase seems to imply that this scene follows immediately after the previous external narrative, but the facts of the situation do not support this. One assumes this is at least thirteen years later, since he said, “but now, thirteen years later, I knew I had been right,” and one is pretty sure he dies at the end. That is a huge leap to make without any indication of change. Even a double space or asterisks might have been sufficient.

    There’s a similar problem with the shift from Ken and Shala talking about the stones and Ken healing Sid. You say, “It would be several more years before I managed to use one, and even longer before I truly understood them,” but without that line I would have no idea that any time had passed at all. It reads like Ken and Shala talk about the stones, then they go out immediately after to heal Sid. You give us, “I don’t want to. He’s mean and doesn’t deserve it,” but that line doesn’t make sense until a good ten or so paragraphs later. That line literally comes out of nowhere, and I can’t see what it has to do with what came before.

    I don’t mean to harp on this, but I spent a lot of time rereading this story because it wasn’t always coherent. These are only the two biggest examples; clarity is something you really have to watch. By the end of the story I understood everything, but the structure of it can make it a chore to read. I understand about being unclear; heck, I tend to write with as much ambiguity as my critics let me get away with. However, this just makes it seem like the reader is missing something, especially since this doesn’t otherwise seem like an experimental piece. At the very least, use page breaks when the scene changes.

    Onto the story itself. There is some neat stuff in here. The idea of magic with a cost has always been an interesting one to me, and this certainly feels to me like a different kind of magic than one is used to seeing. However, there are a couple glaring things about the story that bug me.

    The first is that it seems like all of this is because he, “Just knew.” This is, in general, a very annoying thing to happen, even when it’s magic and therefore somewhat justified. It would be more interesting to me if there was some reason for what he did. Maybe he picks up rocks that remind him of people, and those rocks can heal that person depending on the injury. Or maybe he has rocks that remind him of things, so a rock that reminds him of the ocean could help save a person from drowning, or a rock he found under the stairs can help someone who was injured falling from the stairs. It doesn’t need to be strictly codified-it is magic after all-but the main character should have some agency beyond just feeling heat in rocks and picking them up because he just knows. It might also be interesting if he doesn’t always have the correct stone on hand. Like if he has to go out and find the stone that will heal Shala, and then when he enters the final scene he’s coming in from the outside, wet, scratched up, and muddy, but with the correct stone in hand.

    The second thing that strikes me is that you spend altogether too much time setting this up. Remember that space is at a premium in a short story, and a lot of the beginning just meanders through territory we explore later. The beginning would be a fine beginning for a novel or what have you, but in a short story you should get to the point sooner.

    The characters are a good start, but they need to be fleshed out more, especially considering the span of time you deal with. In the last scene the dynamic between the three characters hasn’t seemed to change in any essential way. They act somewhat differently, but this seems to stem more from the tragedy in front of them than differences in their characters over the years. Ken really has no arc. He discovers this power in him and then dies for the one he loves. For one, that makes this a story that doesn’t have to be about magic. For example, the end wouldn’t have been very different if he offered to get executed in her spot, or something like that. The beginning sets up the mechanism for the event, and only in minor ways sets up the event itself. We should see the discovery of this power change Ken, and that change should lead into his decision at the end. For example, if his somewhat increased empathy for Sid caused Ken to relent at the end and tell Sid to take care of Shala in his absence, realizing and acknowledging Sid’s good traits despite the fact that Ken still hates him, that would have been more interesting. As it is, the only reason the final scene couldn’t have happened in Ken’s childhood is that he needs to be alive and grown up for the rest of the story to happen.

    There’s very little sense of place. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but be aware that your setting isn’t very fleshed out beyond this aspect of magic. You mention primary school, and these folk don’t seem to be nobility (though I could be wrong) so I know there’s some sort of standard education system for the masses in place, something that contradicts the standard fantasy setting of medieval Europe. You also mention things like harvests, and I generally get the impression that all the characters are farmers/artisans/craftsmen, or children of these, and in general it seems like Ken comes from a small town. Should his magic have given him fame beyond the town? Seems a little strange that he should be able to just live an essentially quiet life in his hometown. Also, does Ken have another profession, or does he make a living by healing people? I realize most of these things are awkward to address in a short story, but this is also one of the reasons it can be awkward to have a short story spanning so many years. Maybe you want to think about tightening your focus? Just a suggestion.

    This really hasn’t been a very positive critique, I’m afraid. Don’t get the wrong impression, though; the length of time and effort I’m willing to spend critiquing something is generally an indicator of how interesting it is to me. When I struggle to find things to say it’s generally because the story is just plain bad. The only thing I felt seriously affected my reading of the work was the confusing bits I mentioned at the beginning. Overall I rather enjoyed reading it. However, you did state that you are looking to publish this, and the simple fact is that this story has a long way to go before publication; I structured my critique with this in mind. This isn’t bad, but it is underdeveloped. The story has promise, but you will need to work for it. Remember, rewriting is writing.

    Lastly, a few minor mistakes, which I might not normally spend time on, but you’re submitting this for publication so it needs to be squeaky clean.

    -Fourth paragraph: “She was older than me, by seven days - a fact that she tried to hold over me whenever possible, and tall for our age.”

    I think you meant: “She was older than me, by seven days - a fact that she tried to hold over me whenever possible - and tall for our age.”

    -“I turned the stone in my hands again now. I would never have dreamed that what I was saying then was truth, but now, thirteen years later, I knew I had been right.”

    We don’t know what now is; you give us no reference, and it doesn’t become clear later in the story when he is telling it. In general, I would avoid this sort of thing if you don’t give us a clear idea of our storyteller. The second sentence is fine, but when you describe what the storyteller is doing as he tells the story and don’t give us an idea of the story teller it’s weird. Also, it should be, “I turn the stone in my hands again now.”

    -“What are you doing here?!”

    Should be, “What are you doing here?” In general the exclamation mark should be used sparingly, and there’s never a reason to double punctuate.

    -“She stopped and though I didn’t look up, I could feel her looking disapprovingly down at me.”

    Should have some more commas. I’m more shaky on commas than most aspects of writing, but I’m reasonably sure it should be, “She stopped, and though I didn’t look up, I could feel her looking disapprovingly down at me.”

    Also, a piece of general advice, you should try to avoid using adverbs. I won’t say not to use them, but try to explore other avenues first. You may be surprised what pops out.

    -Similarly, I’m pretty sure, “Yesterday, I was sifting through a pile on my desk and it was hot enough that it almost burned my hand.” doesn’t need a comma after, “Yesterday.”


    Critique: "Vasty and Bruno 1: First Ink" by Rutskarn

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    I’d like to start by saying that the illustration of Vasty is really cool. It simultaneously jumps out as malicious and insane, and me seeing it was the point at which I was interested in the story. (The one of Bruno could be better; the shotgun should probably rest on his shoulder, and you can’t tell what it is without reading the story. His stance is also weird, kind of bent forward at the waist, and that seems weird with his basically human anatomy.) I dunno if you did the art or what, but that is one awesome drawing of a cat.

    Now onto the actual story. I liked it. It was funny, it kept a nice pace, and the titular characters provided a very good balance for one another. They somewhat reminded me of Messrs. Tulip and Pin of Terry Pratchett fame (The Truth) in their dynamic, though their personalities could be considered somewhat reversed. (Note: Upon reading the reviews others have given you, I’d like to assure you that I wrote this before I read them, and wasn’t just like, “Hey, those reviewers are right, he IS Pratchettesque!” Which I think was overstated by the other reviewers anyhow. Both have funny styles, but that’s where the similarity ends, for the most part. I think you’re a fair amount different from him in style and approach. Which isn’t good or bad, just different.)

    The story has a great sense of humor. That said, it goes a little too far sometimes. The bit where the thugs explain about thug-rates, and that they only got paid for taking down sidekicks and low level thugs, and so on, was funny in and of itself, but felt out of place in the story. Never before had narrative awareness been demonstrated by anyone, and since then it wasn’t demonstrated either. I felt it was a joke that took advantage of the silly setting/tone in that silly settings are generally thought of as “anything goes” places. However, the features of the setting should still arise organically from it, silly or not. That was just the most glaring one to me; there are others that bugged me in more minor ways. I would recommend that you cast a critical eye over your story with that in mind. That’s basically the main thing I have to say; remember to reign in your characters, because they’re slightly out of control.

    Sorry this is a short one. I wanted to say more, but I just don’t have much to say. I liked it, and with a little fixing up it could be stellar. If I think of anything else to say then I'll say it.
    Last edited by averagejoe; 2010-03-02 at 06:27 PM.


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  2. - Top - End - #122
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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    Critique of Forever Dead by Thurge Namor
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    I've got to say, I definately appreciate the ammount of detail you put into the descriptions. On the downside, the entire thing feels like its being read into a monotone. The scenery described is vivid, but the delivery is utterly dispassionate, and gives the entire story a muted feel. This is definately my biggest complaint.

    I'd also say that your paragraphs seem too long. Dividing them roughly in half would probably give them enough thickness to look juicy without seeming rambling.

    And lastly, your sound effects would have more oomph to them if they were, say, at the beginning of a paragraph, and in a seperate sentance. For example,

    BLAM. A splatter of red on a dead tree, contrasting with the dark black to create a work of art worthy of any contemporary art gallery of the modern world.
    gives the sound alot more impact than

    BLAM a splatter of red on a dead tree contrasting with the dark black to create a work of art worthy of any contemporary art gallery of the modern world.
    Simple change, but big difference.

    As a minor side question, is the villain's name Logan or Logain? In the backstory he's called Logan, but in the story itself he's consitantly called Logain.

    Anywho, that's my 2cp. Hope you post more later.
    MUNDUM MENTI
    Since I don't want to bring it up every thread I'm in, my games only allow material from books I have physical copies of. I do not use the SRD.

    Books Owned:
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    Player's Handbook
    Dungeon Master's Guide
    Monster Manual
    Monster Manual III
    Complete Adventurer
    Complete Arcane
    Complete Divine
    Complete Warrior
    Draconomicon
    Frostburn
    Libris Mortis
    Lords of Madness
    Planar Handbook
    Sandstorm
    Savage Species
    Unearthed Arcana
    Races of the Dragon
    Races of Stone

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    Quote Originally Posted by averagejoe View Post
    Critique: "The Empty Ruins" by Death Dragon

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    Comments on style:

    To start with: You start with describing a bunch of things, and your opening paragraphs all begin with an article of some variety. While there’s nothing wrong with this as such, it’s a fairly standard way to open a story of this type, and you may want to experiment with jumping right into the action. For example, when Derek does not turn around from the voice behind him, perhaps note that there is only one set of footprints through the snow. This isn’t something you need to do, but you should play around with it, and openings about people are generally more interesting.

    “said adverbly”: You seem to use this format a bit, but it is (or should be) unnecessary, and it tends to bog down your work. For example, the first time you use it: “’Alec,’ Derek replied. He did not turn around.” You still get the same effect as your original statement, but it’s more concise and the word “replied” is less obtrusive than “replied cooly.” We know he’s cool. It’s very easy and natural to imagine a single syllable spoken in monotone, and to add to this impression he doesn’t turn around or, indeed, react in any way. You do a good job of using these external things to make us realize how the characters feel, and you can almost just completely get rid of the adverbs without changing much else.

    The conversation seems to be mostly exposition. I don’t really get a sense of camaraderie between these two, except for them saying they were once comrades, or, really, much of anything else. They mostly just explain the plot, which is bad. Try making the conversation more organic, and remember than everything doesn’t need to be spelled out. You can imply or even leave out.

    The talk-fight-die structure really doesn’t give much of an arc for Derek. He doesn’t really seem changed by these events, and they really don’t offer much significance to the reader. This kind of ties in with my comments about dialogue, since significance to the reader is partially created by relatable characters, but as-is this is just a story about some stoic guy executing his duty. If the centerpiece for your story is going to be a fight then this fight should express some internal struggle, which you did a little bit, but it’s so vague that it’s hard to relate to.

    Characters and Plot:

    The characters are basically archetypes to me. There doesn’t seem to be much to either of them beyond this, largely because they spend a lot of their dialogue explaining things to each other instead of talking like old friends. The plot is similarly too vague for me to get very invested in it, by and large. I had a very good idea of place and setting, it was easy to imagine where the characters are, but less easy to imagine what was going on with them. Try fleshing out the characters on your own. Not necessarily details that you’ll put in the story, but details for you to know when you write them. This will help flesh out the plot as well. You have, at least, the makings of something interesting here, but you need more depth, detail, and focus.

    Other stuff:

    After writing my thoughts, I went and looked at the other reviews. I would like to comment on Silver and Banjo’s comments on the fight scene. I thought this was one of the stronger points of your story. You manage to keep it brief while still giving us an idea of what’s going on, and we can fill in the details. Drawn out and detailed fight scenes tend to be boring and confusing. Also, remember that a fight given as much attention as this one shouldn’t be just a fight, it should give external meaning to some internal conflict. The details you give about the fight should reflect this.


    Critique: Heartstone by Alarra

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    Preliminary note: I quote the story a few times, and tried to tell where the quote came from as often as I could. However, to save from counting paragraphs, I sometimes left this out, knowing that you can just search through the document or use alt+f on the website.

    Fist off, a lot of the story was confusing, and many things seem out of place. For example:

    “There were lines I shouldn’t cross. Ailments that were so bad, so grievous, that curing them could kill me. But I could.

    As I moved to stand in the doorway of the next room, I could see her fragile form, almost skeletal beneath the sheets, the doctor bending over her, and a figure hunched in the chair by the bed.”

    We have no reference for this shift from internal narrative to external. Who is she? Is it the woman who’s back he just cured? Because that’s what it seems like, even though that can’t be true when I think about it. A few paragraphs later I’m fairly sure it’s Shala, I guess? He, “moved to stand in the doorway of the next room.” Next room from what? That phrase seems to imply that this scene follows immediately after the previous external narrative, but the facts of the situation do not support this. One assumes this is at least thirteen years later, since he said, “but now, thirteen years later, I knew I had been right,” and one is pretty sure he dies at the end. That is a huge leap to make without any indication of change. Even a double space or asterisks might have been sufficient.

    There’s a similar problem with the shift from Ken and Shala talking about the stones and Ken healing Sid. You say, “It would be several more years before I managed to use one, and even longer before I truly understood them,” but without that line I would have no idea that any time had passed at all. It reads like Ken and Shala talk about the stones, then they go out immediately after to heal Sid. You give us, “I don’t want to. He’s mean and doesn’t deserve it,” but that line doesn’t make sense until a good ten or so paragraphs later. That line literally comes out of nowhere, and I can’t see what it has to do with what came before.

    I don’t mean to harp on this, but I spent a lot of time rereading this story because it wasn’t always coherent. These are only the two biggest examples; clarity is something you really have to watch. By the end of the story I understood everything, but the structure of it can make it a chore to read. I understand about being unclear; heck, I tend to write with as much ambiguity as my critics let me get away with. However, this just makes it seem like the reader is missing something, especially since this doesn’t otherwise seem like an experimental piece. At the very least, use page breaks when the scene changes.

    Onto the story itself. There is some neat stuff in here. The idea of magic with a cost has always been an interesting one to me, and this certainly feels to me like a different kind of magic than one is used to seeing. However, there are a couple glaring things about the story that bug me.

    The first is that it seems like all of this is because he, “Just knew.” This is, in general, a very annoying thing to happen, even when it’s magic and therefore somewhat justified. It would be more interesting to me if there was some reason for what he did. Maybe he picks up rocks that remind him of people, and those rocks can heal that person depending on the injury. Or maybe he has rocks that remind him of things, so a rock that reminds him of the ocean could help save a person from drowning, or a rock he found under the stairs can help someone who was injured falling from the stairs. It doesn’t need to be strictly codified-it is magic after all-but the main character should have some agency beyond just feeling heat in rocks and picking them up because he just knows. It might also be interesting if he doesn’t always have the correct stone on hand. Like if he has to go out and find the stone that will heal Shala, and then when he enters the final scene he’s coming in from the outside, wet, scratched up, and muddy, but with the correct stone in hand.

    The second thing that strikes me is that you spend altogether too much time setting this up. Remember that space is at a premium in a short story, and a lot of the beginning just meanders through territory we explore later. The beginning would be a fine beginning for a novel or what have you, but in a short story you should get to the point sooner.

    The characters are a good start, but they need to be fleshed out more, especially considering the span of time you deal with. In the last scene the dynamic between the three characters hasn’t seemed to change in any essential way. They act somewhat differently, but this seems to stem more from the tragedy in front of them than differences in their characters over the years. Ken really has no arc. He discovers this power in him and then dies for the one he loves. For one, that makes this a story that doesn’t have to be about magic. For example, the end wouldn’t have been very different if he offered to get executed in her spot, or something like that. The beginning sets up the mechanism for the event, and only in minor ways sets up the event itself. We should see the discovery of this power change Ken, and that change should lead into his decision at the end. For example, if his somewhat increased empathy for Sid caused Ken to relent at the end and tell Sid to take care of Shala in his absence, realizing and acknowledging Sid’s good traits despite the fact that Ken still hates him, that would have been more interesting. As it is, the only reason the final scene couldn’t have happened in Ken’s childhood is that he needs to be alive and grown up for the rest of the story to happen.

    There’s very little sense of place. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but be aware that your setting isn’t very fleshed out beyond this aspect of magic. You mention primary school, and these folk don’t seem to be nobility (though I could be wrong) so I know there’s some sort of standard education system for the masses in place, something that contradicts the standard fantasy setting of medieval Europe. You also mention things like harvests, and I generally get the impression that all the characters are farmers/artisans/craftsmen, or children of these, and in general it seems like Ken comes from a small town. Should his magic have given him fame beyond the town? Seems a little strange that he should be able to just live an essentially quiet life in his hometown. Also, does Ken have another profession, or does he make a living by healing people? I realize most of these things are awkward to address in a short story, but this is also one of the reasons it can be awkward to have a short story spanning so many years. Maybe you want to think about tightening your focus? Just a suggestion.

    This really hasn’t been a very positive critique, I’m afraid. Don’t get the wrong impression, though; the length of time and effort I’m willing to spend critiquing something is generally an indicator of how interesting it is to me. When I struggle to find things to say it’s generally because the story is just plain bad. The only thing I felt seriously affected my reading of the work was the confusing bits I mentioned at the beginning. Overall I rather enjoyed reading it. However, you did state that you are looking to publish this, and the simple fact is that this story has a long way to go before publication; I structured my critique with this in mind. This isn’t bad, but it is underdeveloped. The story has promise, but you will need to work for it. Remember, rewriting is writing.

    Lastly, a few minor mistakes, which I might not normally spend time on, but you’re submitting this for publication so it needs to be squeaky clean.

    -Fourth paragraph: “She was older than me, by seven days - a fact that she tried to hold over me whenever possible, and tall for our age.”

    I think you meant: “She was older than me, by seven days - a fact that she tried to hold over me whenever possible - and tall for our age.”

    -“I turned the stone in my hands again now. I would never have dreamed that what I was saying then was truth, but now, thirteen years later, I knew I had been right.”

    We don’t know what now is; you give us no reference, and it doesn’t become clear later in the story when he is telling it. In general, I would avoid this sort of thing if you don’t give us a clear idea of our storyteller. The second sentence is fine, but when you describe what the storyteller is doing as he tells the story and don’t give us an idea of the story teller it’s weird. Also, it should be, “I turn the stone in my hands again now.”

    -“What are you doing here?!”

    Should be, “What are you doing here?” In general the exclamation mark should be used sparingly, and there’s never a reason to double punctuate.

    -“She stopped and though I didn’t look up, I could feel her looking disapprovingly down at me.”

    Should have some more commas. I’m more shaky on commas than most aspects of writing, but I’m reasonably sure it should be, “She stopped, and though I didn’t look up, I could feel her looking disapprovingly down at me.”

    Also, a piece of general advice, you should try to avoid using adverbs. I won’t say not to use them, but try to explore other avenues first. You may be surprised what pops out.

    -Similarly, I’m pretty sure, “Yesterday, I was sifting through a pile on my desk and it was hot enough that it almost burned my hand.” doesn’t need a comma after, “Yesterday.”


    Critique: "Vasty and Bruno 1: First Ink" by Rutskarn

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    I’d like to start by saying that the illustration of Vasty is really cool. It simultaneously jumps out as malicious and insane, and me seeing it was the point at which I was interested in the story. (The one of Bruno could be better; the shotgun should probably rest on his shoulder, and you can’t tell what it is without reading the story. His stance is also weird, kind of bent forward at the waist, and that seems weird with his basically human anatomy.) I dunno if you did the art or what, but that is one awesome drawing of a cat.

    Now onto the actual story. I liked it. It was funny, it kept a nice pace, and the titular characters provided a very good balance for one another. They somewhat reminded me of Messrs. Tulip and Pin of Terry Pratchett fame (The Truth) in their dynamic, though their personalities could be considered somewhat reversed. (Note: Upon reading the reviews others have given you, I’d like to assure you that I wrote this before I read them, and wasn’t just like, “Hey, those reviewers are right, he IS Pratchettesque!” Which I think was overstated by the other reviewers anyhow. Both have funny styles, but that’s where the similarity ends, for the most part. I think you’re a fair amount different from him in style and approach. Which isn’t good or bad, just different.)

    The story has a great sense of humor. That said, it goes a little too far sometimes. The bit where the thugs explain about thug-rates, and that they only got paid for taking down sidekicks and low level thugs, and so on, was funny in and of itself, but felt out of place in the story. Never before had narrative awareness been demonstrated by anyone, and since then it wasn’t demonstrated either. I felt it was a joke that took advantage of the silly setting/tone in that silly settings are generally thought of as “anything goes” places. However, the features of the setting should still arise organically from it, silly or not. That was just the most glaring one to me; there are others that bugged me in more minor ways. I would recommend that you cast a critical eye over your story with that in mind. That’s basically the main thing I have to say; remember to reign in your characters, because they’re slightly out of control.

    Sorry this is a short one. I wanted to say more, but I just don’t have much to say. I liked it, and with a little fixing up it could be stellar. If I think of anything else to say then I'll say it.
    Hey, thanks for the review, man. Yeah--I wrote this a while ago, and there are a lot of things I'd change about it. If you liked it, you might want to read the sequels--they're a little better. From Breakfast to Hell is done like dinner, and Crossfire Tango is wrapping up shortly.
    The man who does Spoiler Warning, that website, that book, and brought Nixon back from the grave.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rutskarn View Post
    Hey, thanks for the review, man. Yeah--I wrote this a while ago, and there are a lot of things I'd change about it. If you liked it, you might want to read the sequels--they're a little better. From Breakfast to Hell is done like dinner, and Crossfire Tango is wrapping up shortly.
    I thought there might be, and now that I know there are I will read them. I would have looked myself, but I can never find my way around blogs.


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    Just so everybody knows, I'll try to update the roster in the next few days. This week in particular is busier than heck for me, but I should have some time after the weekend.
    I have my own TV show featuring local musicians performing live. YouTube page with full episodes and outtake clips here.
    I also have another YouTube page with local live music clips I've filmed on my own.

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    Cheers and Jeers: Onami's Legend
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    "Each night Death kept silence". Did you mean "silent"? I mean, death could keep the abstract noun "silence" and it sort of makes sense, but I don't think that's what you're going for here.

    The story reminds me partially of the story of Achilles, but more of Anne Rice's vampires: They can't die naturally and realize that death is better than unlife.

    Now to your ending: Perhaps I am unimaginative, but I don't see how complimenting Death's sword breaks the supposed bargain that Onami holds. I think maybe the legends were wrong about him and his mastery over death, and that's what is being hinted at. Overall, it seems a little too cryptic.


    Cheers and Jeers: The Palace
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    I have to say, I like what you're doing with the story. Or at least started to do. I can tell the story could use a re-write towards the end, as it's not entirely clear how the italicized flashback ties in with the current story. One assumes that the not-sorry-for-anything girl is the woman in the story who is finally sorry for something. I've seen stories that try the two-pronged story method before, and most of them are confusing, but yours I can follow easily. It's almost like I'm playing a video game and watching a cinematic: The current action is clear while the flashback is fuzzy.

    You mention that she lost her tattoos, but do not elaborate any further on that thought. I wish I knew what the fighting was about or how it was that she abandoned him (or felt that she abandoned him), but I can chalk that up to you wanting the reader to fill in the back story.


    Cheers and Jeers: Heartstone
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    At the beginning of the story, the main character is sitting on a bed rolling a brown stone through their fingers. A bit later in the story you have a flashback to finding a specific stone and then you have "but now, thirteen years later, I knew I had been right," which presumably brings us back to current with the word "now", which would be the main character sitting on their bed. However, it isn't until almost the end that we come back to the character sitting on the bed with the brown stone.

    Other than that, some minor nitpicks:
    1. In paragraph 2, you slip back into the present tense with "though I fear the faint smile on my lips". It should probably be "feared".

    2. Later on, when Shala is describing the woman with the broken back: "She’s a wonderful, kind, woman". There should not be a comma after "kind".

    Now the good part:

    Excellent, excellent story. A good story is one that places an itch in the reader. I kept wanting to go make the stone healer concept into something for a D&D world, it was so immersive. I wanted to know more about what happens with these characters. I got disappointed when the story ended. Not that it ended badly, I just wanted to know more and more about this story and the other stories that come from it. Does the son have the same power? Can the stones be used to do other things, such as transfer ailments from one person to another? It'd be neat to see, say, the son discover that he can store afflictions in the stones like a battery and inflict them on his enemies, only to see a karmic downfall.


    My story will be the one in my signature if anyone wants to get a head start on reading it while I type these up.

    EDIT: I copied and pasted just so you don't have to navigate away from this thread.

    CHAPTER ONE – A STICKY SITUATION

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    . . .One time I was sitting in my parlor eating a smoked pikefish with jam and hollandaise sauce, when in storms a psychic wombat. His hackles were raised; I could tell he was irate, and irrational.
    . . ."Where's my electric toothbrush, d*** it," he demands of me.
    . . ."I don't have your toothbrush, electric or otherwise," I quip back at him.
    . . .He's trying to figure it all out when John Wilkes Booth barges in and mows us all down. Oh, great. Now we're dead and I'm stuck in limbo with a telekinetic marsupial with a hygiene problem. I'm ticking off the eons and then comes the bright light. No, it wasn't at the end of a tunnel. It was neon, and orange.
    . . .I move toward the light, and find myself on a deserted street. I'm in front of a 24-hour discotech/laundromat, and the jazzy sounds of Al Gore on the french horn are oozing out of the double doors. It's cold, so I pull out my trusty post-it note pad and fashion myself a hat. And then I turn around, and there stands the woman of my dreams.
    . . ."H-hi," I stammer, as my feet begin to jig of their own volition.
    . . .She's quiet for a moment as we watch the sailboats go by. "Do you want my number?"
    . . ."Sure," I reply, pulling a note off of my head and looking around for a pen.
    . . ."It's five," she says, as she turns and walks away, disappearing into the mist.
    . . .I scribbled her number down and ran after her, my feet splashing along the dry city streets. I looked around for her, ate a tunafish sandwich I had in my shoe, took a nap, and then looked for her some more. It must have been hours that I drove along those streets, that little red car bouncing hard with each pothole in the dusty gravel path, kicking up dust and dirt that marred its fine white paint job.
    . . .There, ahead, I saw it. Its roof was collapsing and ivy climbed along the house's walls. I could tell that sooner or later, my dream girl would have to come here. I waited, there behind some trees as I munched on some acorns. I hadn't eaten in days, and I was starving. I took another bite of the danish, and bit into a raisin. Ugh, I hate raisins. I sent the waiter off to fix the order, and he at last returned. I pointed over to the brick house, and we watched as a shadowy figure walked stealthily around it, his noisy footfalls loud enough to wake the dead.
    . . .Since no dead awoke, I supposed it wasn't that loud. I motioned, and the waiter handed me the rifle I had requested. I cocked it, loaded a shell into its chamber, pulled the hammer back, fitted it onto its tripod, cocked it, and knelt next to the bicycle rack, propping the shotgun onto my knee so as to steady the shot.
    . . .The shadowy figure walked out of the house then, his features vivid and clear. I could make out that, underneath his ski mask, he had a butterfly tattoo on her left cheek. She removed her coat, then, and hung it on the doorknob behind her. There was a moment of panic as she walked towards me, stopping halfway between me and the house to pull something out of her coat pocket. It was a poem. I listened as she read it silently, and could make out the lines of Shakespeare's immortal Ode to Autumn.
    . . .Another figure stepped out from behind the post office then, joining the mystery woman. She removed her coat and handed it over to them, and I could smell the odor of gun oil. There was no gun nearby, so where could the odor be coming from?
    . . .I turned off my laptop and then logged off of the website I had been browsing. I heard the click then of a gun being cocked behind me, and I turned slowly.
    . . .There, standing in the middle of the ball pit, was the Frenchman.
    . . ."I've been waiting for you, Detective Mann," he said in his distinctive Austrian accent. I could tell that he meant business by the knife he held in his hand.
    . . ."I'm not Detective Mann," I replied in my best falsetto, hoping the comically large poinsettia tacked onto my shirt lapel would deter him.
    . . ."You're whoever you say I am," the Frenchman replied, pulling the pin out a little further on the hand grenade. "Now, are you going to talk?"
    . . .I glared at him, but it didn't work. I made kissy faces, but that didn't work either. I had no other options. "All right, I'll talk."
    . . .The words were vinegar in my mouth; hot, chewy vinegar. The Frenchman waited, his hands wringing in anticipation. Right then and there, I spilled the beans. I also spilled the lemonade. I can be very clumsy.
    . . .Just then, the mystery woman and her mystery friend struck the Frenchman from behind, the frying pan smashing squarely into his face, hands, and toes. He was out cold.
    . . .I didn't know what to say, so I thanked her eloquently. Shrugging, she took off her coat and dropped it on the forest floor, along with the blood-spattered baseball bat. She set fire to them to destroy the evidence, and soon they were little more than ashes and purple-glowing embers. Finally, it was time to confront her about her part in the citywide bicycle thefts. But this wasn't the time for that.
    . . .She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a folded note. I unfolded it, my eyes widening with every word as my hands began to tremble and tears began to stain the page. She then handed me the folded piece of paper, and with that, walked away, vanishing into thin air.
    . . .Reaching down, I pulled the mask off the Frenchman. Underneath was a skull.

    . . .My theories confirmed, I knew who the mastermind behind the counterfeit ring was. I shook the mystery woman's hand as I hopped on my horse, pedaling furiously down the busy highway.
    . . .A few minutes later, I stormed through the front door of my own office building. My gun was in one hand, a pair of handcuffs in the other, and an arrest warrant in the other. Marching squarely into my personal office, I confronted myself.
    . . ."You did it. You've been selling the drug-laced drugs to local kids, haven't you," I demanded.
    . . ."You got the wrong guy," I shot back. I wasn't going to go to jail again. I reached under the desk, my hand touching the smooth metal of the gun underneath.
    . . ."Take your hand off that firearm." I watched as I stood up, my hands in plain sight. "Now turn around, hands against the wall."
    . . .D***. I had to get out of here. I had never been to jail and I intended to keep it that way. I lashed my foot out, and kicked the bedside table over. The distraction was all I needed. I bolted for the window, bullets wizzing past my ear as I leapt through. I hit the awning below, falling through to be caught by the awning above the front door. Panting, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me along the streets, the tires squealing as I blazed a path out of there.
    . . .I was one lucky sonuvab****. But someone wanted me dead, that was for sure.

    . . .And that someone, was me.

    * * * * *

    . . .The cool night air blew into my face as I ran down the deserted city streets, and the searing sun was worsening the stress of being stuck in a traffic jam. I brainstormed then, thinking of ways to get the serial arsonist. I knew that if I didn't catch them soon, that I would eventually track myself down and then all of my work would be in vain.
    . . .Then a dame walked into the bar. Or it might have been a gentlemen. It's hard to keep track of these things. I'm not a detective, after all. They sat down next to me and ordered what I was having, which was odd since I wasn't having anything.
    . . ."I hear you're looking for clues on these museum robberies. I think I can help you."
    . . ."Oh, yeah?" I cocked my eyebrow in interest, which had no visible effect since I keep them shaved.
    . . ."The man that does it goes by the name of El Cat. That's Spanish for 'The Gato.' His real name is Widdleford M. Zizzlebottom. He lives at 1987 Piddleford Lane, and drives a Dodge Charger, license plate 'ELCAT.'"
    . . .I listened intently, but I doubted this tip would be of much use. I don't go running off in some direction based on some vague information.
    . . ."Remember that name. Hamfiddle R. Nanelboozle."
    . . ."Tomboddle N. Wasafozzit. Gotcha."
    . . .Everyone in the bar was giving me strange looks, especially the person sitting next to me, as I had been the only one talking. Nevertheless, I paid my tab and headed out the door.
    . . .I found myself on Piddleford Lane, in front of a luxurious mansion, but that wasn't where this Nozfozzle T. Shimisham lived. I walked another block to his house and knocked on the door.
    . . ."Are you..." I checked the detailed notes I had been taking for the right information, "Homfobble G. Schnozzrocket?"
    . . .After a few minutes, the door opened, and there stood a young man in his early 80's.
    . . ."Your silence speaks for you, Mr. Wonknozzle. I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you in."
    . . .A woosh of wind and a blur of motion was all I saw as an arrow flew past my ear, striking Mr. Tooblydoozit in the neck. On the arrow's shaft was a note: "Dead men don't lie, Mr. Nozzawozzat. Now you are dead, because I shot you. In the neck. With an arrow. This arrow, in fact. Ha Ha. Kisses and hugs, The Mad Gunman."
    . . .Despite his statements to the contrary, Mr. Humbuddle was dead. But for whom had the arrow been intended?

    . . .Clearly, someone besides me wanted me dead.


    . . .Running and ducking for cover behind mailboxes, small dogs, and washing machines – whatever was handy – I made my way across the street to the direction from whence the arrow came. From Whence the Arrow Came would make a great name for a book or a rock band or something. The Mad Gunman was gone, so I asked the squirrelly-looking fellow squatting in the bushes holding the bow if he had seen anything. He said he’d seen plenty of things.
    . . .The trail was weeks old by now. Could I still find the Mad Gunman after all this time?
    . . .“What should I do?” I asked myself as I hopped back on my bicycle.
    . . .“Why are you asking me?” I replied. “I’m the one that’s trying to kill you.”
    . . .I screamed, realizing that I had caught up to myself. I pedaled faster, but no matter where I went, there I was. I pulled out my gun. We fired at each other as I rode down the street, following closely on my heels. I was never that good of a shot, but I was a skilled marksman and knew that my chances of survival were nil if I stuck around too long.
    . . .There, ahead in the road, was my answer: The Grand Canyon. I hopped onto a donkey and spurred it onward and down into the rocky ravine. Squeak, bump, squeak, bump went the old steam engine as it careened off of the rocky ledges and plummeted down toward the waters below. I was on a collision course with a small fishing boat full of small fishing men.
    . . .Ker-a-a-a-a-sh-sha-sha-na-na! we went into the unsuspecting boat. I landed safely on my feet, having performed a triple somersault and a four-point landing. Some days I’m glad that I’m an Olympic gymnast.
    . . . But now the Ace Bandit had gotten away.

    . . . I cocked my eyebrow, and prepared to make a witty remark. I couldn’t think of any, so I cocked my other eyebrow as well. I began to swim to shore, all while bullets rained down around me. Funny, the weatherman hadn’t called for that. I swam up onto the beach, and kept swimming, deep into the vast and steamy jungle.
    . . . Completely naked, I pulled out my machete and began to make my way through the dense undergrowth. Ahead, I could make out the fabled ruins of an ancient civilization. I cocked my safari hat, and pressed on. The arid, searing air of the northern tundra beat at my back as I pressed on against the wind. In the still night, I heard a ghastly howl echo through the trees that chilled me to the bone. I decided that I shouldn’t make that noise anymore.
    . . . “How far do we have to go?” I asked my tour guide.
    . . . “Eet eez, ‘ow you zay, a shaut deestawnce, haw haw haw,” he said, his deep Russian accent making it hard to understand his words. Or it could be the marmoset he was actively trying to cram whole into his mouth. That too.
    . . . For week after week, we trekked through the hills and valleys and cities and frigid wastelands in search of civilization. I checked our rations. We were down to a mere three gallons of bouillabaisse. Things were looking desperate. And then things looked up for a while, and then looked desperate again.
    . . . Collapsing and gasping for breath, I skipped merrily over the last sand dune, my eyes filled with the wondrous sight of a helicopter, waiting to rescue us.
    . . . We paddled our way over to it, and detached the dangling line from the rescue diver. Giving the line a good yank, we were carried aloft into the sky.
    . . . Over fields of wheat, and watermelons, and coconuts we flew, grasping tightly to the pterosaur’s legs. "GRKHLONNGGGGHKGFLFGLGLUMMMPH!!!!" Joffrey whispered seductively to it.
    . . . I landed the hang-glider deftly on the rooftop of my office. Scrambling over the edge of the roof, I jumped toward the street below, but first made a detour through my window.
    . . . Quickly, I shuffled through the papers on my desk. At last, I found the evidence I had been searching for. Suddenly, I burst through the door.
    . . . “I knew you’d come back here sooner or later.”
    . . . “I have to,” I said. “I kinda work here.”
    . . . “I have the evidence right here that I need to put you away for a long, long time,” I said, holding up nothing in particular.
    . . . “If I’m going down, you’re going down with me!” I shouted as I lunged across the room. I was too fast for me, but not fast enough. I grabbed my leg and yanked it out from under me, hitting my head on the ceiling.
    . . . I crawled on top of myself and pinned me down, the hate seething in my eyes. “NEVER!” I shouted, the primal and dulcet tones of my voice sounding through.
    . . . The cops burst through the wall then. The jig was up. I had nowhere to go, so I pulled my gun from my shoe and pointed it at the advancing policemen. “You’ll never take me!” I shouted, the froth from my mouth making a puddle on the floor.
    . . . Behind me, I silently slid open the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out the gun I kept hidden there. I cocked it, and I jumped and spun with a deft pirouette, the gun in my hand pointing to me.
    . . . Fortunately, I got off the first shot.

    EPILOGUE

    OR PROLOGUE, I FORGET WHAT IT’S CALLED WHEN IT COMES AFTER THE STORY

    OKAY, I LOOKED IT UP; IT’S EPILOGUE, GUYS

    . . . We lay on the beach, the cool wind blowing through our hair at 165 miles per hour. I sipped a virgin martini with extra vodka, and sighed. Overhead, the suns were shining lazily through the hazy stratosphere as the waves crashed onto the beach and seagulls circled ominously overhead.
    . . . I couldn’t help but think back over the last few days at all that had happened. I had lost, then met the girl of my dreams. Or the car, or perhaps the home of my dreams. Regardless, it was awesome that I had it, whatever it was.
    . . . “It’s been perfect,” I said, looking in the direction of the recliner next to mine.
    . . . “The perfect crime,” I agreed, looking back at myself. We shared a chuckle that echoed throughout the room as lithe Inuit women brought us drink after drink. We didn’t really want them to, but we didn’t know how to say “Stop bringing us drinks” in Spanish.
    . . . I finished my hearty laugh. “The perfect crime,” I said.
    Last edited by Zom B; 2010-03-03 at 10:18 AM.
    Zombitar courtesy of Djinn_In_Tonic.

  7. - Top - End - #127
    Grandma in the Playground Moderator
     
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    @Average Joe -
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    Thank you. My writing group had similar criticisms as well. How to transition between the flashbacks and current day was an area that I struggled with a lot in that piece and you're not the only one that has let me know that I failed at it. The rewrite that I've been working on adds a lot more setting and hammers down the time frame, addresses the idea of him gaining notoriety because of his power and how he manages to maintain a quiet existence while still healing people, and hopefully makes the transitions more clear. I haven't been focusing on it as much as I should the past few weeks and now I'm worried that I won't finish it before the deadline, but I like the story, so even if I don't, I'm sure I'll keep working on it. And hey, if I don't submit it for this, maybe I can make it into the book it wants to be. Because you're right, the wide time frame makes it really hard to fit everything that I want into the wordcount limit and especially with the changes I've made, there's a lot more that I would like to tell. And I really like the suggestion of him forgiving Sid and asking him to watch over Shala...I may have to include that.

    I was outzombied by the baby!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amotis View Post
    Alarra ate all my awesome and now she's always acknowledged as awe-inspiring awesome. Alliteration aside, Alarra is awesome.

  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Alarra-

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    Don't think of it as failure, think of it as finding a way that didn't work. In the sage words of Thomas Edison.

    Good luck to you!


    Critique: "The Last Trade" by Raz_Fox

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    It opens nicely. The first paragraph tells us so much without explaining anything, and it drives the rest of the story rather than just supporting it. Then you’re able to maintain the same level of interest throughout. This was an easy story to keep reading.

    I’d also like to compliment you on your scope and focus. Many short story writers try to reach too far and say too much. This is a short story, not a shortened long story, and it’s good that you’re able to keep that in mind. This could have been a sprawling epic about the tribe’s battle with the Duke, but we get just as much from the story just by reading this.

    The main problem I have with this is that it’s a story that’s been told many times, and there’s nothing that this one does that hasn’t really already been done. You could have replaced this with, “Natives are being driven out by aggressive colonialists, colonialist man decides to help natives,” and we would know the story. This is well written, but it’s also very familiar, and doesn’t seem to offer much new.

    There also isn’t a lot to the characters here. We don’t really get anything from Baren except a general sense of cultural sensitivity, and Speaker just tells stories. I did praise the story for its tight focus, but at the same time the lack of things happening is problematic. The story doesn’t seem to have a point besides transmitting information about this setting.

    Sorry I don't have much to say. You seem to have style and form down pretty well, you just have to work a bit on concept, and that's something I can't help you a lot with. Good luck!
    Last edited by averagejoe; 2010-03-03 at 02:06 PM.


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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    I think it is so very cool that there is a thread for a writing workshop!!!


    Onami’s Greeting; Fantasy Poetry
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    This poem is truly interesting, but one of the main things that I don't like is the seperation of the bits of speech caused by the opening and closing of quotes. At first I assumed that the countryman must have had dialogue between that simply was omitted, but as it is merely Onami's greeting, I'm not sure that's the case...I was however distracted by my inner theorizing about it though.

    Another comment I would like to make is in responce to Jimor's comment that it's missing a fundemental "tie the poem together" quality...I feel somewhat differently about this...I really felt that mother, father, and enemy were tied together very well, but I will conceed to Jimor that there were some lines in the middle of these that distracted from the poem's overall flow.

    I love the last lines when it tells you what Onami started with by saying that his first lines were the same as his last. This gives the whole poem a compeletly different (and much less random seeming) feel to it.


    As an after thought; I wish I'd opened the reply post in a different tab so I could go back and forth between post and reply...it's hard to remember everything one wishes to say...
    Keep the heat alive

  10. - Top - End - #130
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    Critique: "Forever Dead" by thurge namor

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    First off, this is in need of some major editing. You seem to know that, but you should probably still edit a selection before posting it. An unedited work is difficult to read, because all the errors make things confusing and not pretty, and it makes it hard to critique, because I’m not sure what things are intentional. That said, I’ll try to be as helpful as I can.

    The first thing I notice is that you really like to use metaphors. Sometimes I’m not sure what’s a metaphor and what’s a vision from his drug-induced delirium, but even accounting for that you have a lot. You should probably cut back on these. Metaphors tend to be one of those things you use when needed, and when you insert them willy-nilly it tends to slow down the action to a halt. Not every detail needs to be vividly imagined by the reader. Maybe you were doing it to try and intensify his drug delirium, and that could be an interesting thing to do, but if that’s the case then it’s unclear to me.

    The exposition seems a little awkward. There should probably be a better way to tell what the afflicted are. Maybe we see one munching an arm after Will is captured? Similarly, the pathos feels shoehorned in. It’s just an excerpt, so it’s hard to judge this sort of thing, but this is basically an action scene, and then at the end you tell us the character’s motivations and feelings. In the context of a novel (I’m guessing) we should know already Will’s relationship with Xerrov, and then this part is redundant. If we don’t already know, then this is a bad place to introduce it. I’m not saying cut that part out entirely, but tell us what the character is feeling and thinking, not facts that we should already know.

    You keep describing the attacker’s hands as, “skeletal.” Normally this would be fine, but I’m not sure if the attackers are humans or undead or what. It’s an adjective that really confuses things. The painter’s masks (after I looked up what one was) was a cool effect, though.

    I did like your use of sound effects, however. It was a good way to break up the flow of each paragraph, and they would often give us a good idea of the action without you explaining it, which is nice because descriptions can get confusing in writing.

    It’s not very long, and there’s not very much to it. Again, the lack of editing, and the fact that it’s an excerpt, make it difficult to say very much. I’d like to see this again after it’s cleaned up a bit.


    Critique: "RL" by EmeraldPheonix

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    This one was really interesting. Your writing style is concise and clever, and the premise is interesting enough that I want to read more of this. Already we can feel the conflict escalating out of control, and are sure it will inevitably end in some kind of tragedy. It’s, in a sense, predictable, but in an utterly chaotic and fascinating way.

    The whole, “gay” thing sort of came out of nowhere, and I’m not sure what purpose it’s supposed to serve. You don’t really need it to create sympathy for the CHAOS members; we get that just by seeing them as much as we do. If you, as the author, were trying to make a point about it not being okay to use, “gay,” in such a way, I would advise against that sort of thing. It rarely adds to a work. I tend to think that an author having something to say in a book adds nothing at best, and that’s only when the author is good enough to slip it in so that one needs to examine the work to even tell he’s slipped his own opinions in there. It isn’t needed to cause an incident in No Man’s Land (though I’ll agree that an incident does need to happen.) Everyone in CHAOS is angry enough that they’ll use any old excuse. Right now that sequence looks very out of place.

    I cannot read the yellow text unless I tilt my screen.

    That said, this I find the use of visuals in writing fascinating, and they’re well used here. There’s a direct contrast between ORDER and CHAOS on the page before you even read it. There are personality contrasts as well - the members of CHAOS fight, but in the end they have more in common than they have with them members of order – and the way you use visuals helps to emphasize this.

    Overall this is a really solid entry. If you can keep doing work like this then, as a fully fleshed out story, this could be really good. Good luck!


    Critique: "The Palace" by Death Dragon

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    This one was pretty neat, and I enjoyed reading it. The structure was interesting, and the juxtaposition of the two stories added a lot to both of them. You probably didn’t even need to explain what this was, it was probably clear enough. (Though it’s hard to say, because I obviously can’t read it again and make myself forget the explanation.) It does feel a bit incomplete by itself, but that isn’t really a problem if you intend to make this the first part of a larger work. Honestly, though, with a little tweaking, maybe some more stuff added on, this could be a pretty good short story by itself.

    The biggest issue this has is that your descriptions tend to be a bit clunky, especially when you’re describing action. Take the following:

    The flowers that had sparkled so many colors in the sunlight only that morning now appeared faded and worn under the overcast sky.

    Flowers don’t really sparkle, and, though I know what you’re trying to convey, this doesn’t really convey it. You probably don’t need the, “only,” either. I can see why it’s there, but with long passages like this simpler tends to be better. Even switching the order in which you tell things could help. (“The flowers appeared faded and worn under the overcast sky that only this morning had sparkled so many colors in the sunlight.” I made sure to use your original exact wording as much as possible, because I don’t want to write your story for you, but I hope you can see how even this one change makes the action much more obvious and improves the flow of the sentance.)

    I picked apart that one statement, but I think you should, in general, look through your story and make these sorts of decisions whenever you’re describing an object or an action.

    The character is mostly fine, though I do have some issues with that as well. For one, your story reads a bit like a story with an obvious moral. As a young girl she is defiantly not sorry, and as a woman she becomes sorry for something. Not bad, but predictable. In general subtlety in characterization is a good thing, and though the way you haven’t isn’t bad, it could also be better.

    The second thing is that I’d also like to see a few of the intermediate stages. This attitude of hers is pretty much the point of the story, but it also comes off as very childish, like something she would outgrow. You include that paragraph near the end, the last italicized one, but that seems like a small bit to cover so many years of growth. I want to see her change into an adult, still keeping this point of view, but maturing (or not maturing) in her understanding of it. As it is there’s a disjoint, and I don’t understand why a grown woman would not understand the value in apology or contrition. I would try putting all of the, “The girl,” bits into one long segment, and then use the other breaks for other stages in her life. That’s okay to do; you don’t need to switch quickly back and forth all the time, and if you still want to do that you could probably condense these events. Just something to try, not something you necessarily need to do.
    Last edited by averagejoe; 2010-03-06 at 02:33 PM.


    Sweet Friendship Jayne avatar by Crown of Thorns

  11. - Top - End - #131
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    "RL" by EmeraldPhoenix

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    I feel like this one could go either way. Your story is fast paced and intriguing. I'm interested in seeing what the real world is like for these characters. However, there are so many characters going on right now that I can't really keep track of them. I'd have to read more to decide if it's going to be a problem, though, as most likely some of these characters will fade into the background more. Also, I'm not sure all the colors and fonts were really worth it. Some of them were very hard to read, and the whole effect was kind of distracting.


    "Alone?" by The Fiery Tower
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    You really create a great atmosphere with this story. I can feel the tension, the fear. However, I feel like some of your sentences are kind of awkward in their structure. You seem to be constantly describing what the guy is doing, maybe skimping a bit on descriptions of the setting. Perhaps you could use a less impersonal narrator? Not necessarily a transition to first person, but something more like in Harry Potter and such. You wouldn't need to use 'he thought' or 'he said to himself' so much then, which might help the reader feel more a part of the story.



    CHAPTER ONE – A STICKY SITUATION by Zom B
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    I'm... not really sure I get the point of this one. Yeah, it's crazy and wacky. Yeah, it makes no sense. But, why? It is genuinely funny in some parts. The guy shoving a marmoset in his mouth made me laugh. I thought it was wonderfully dreamlike in some places, that feeling that things are changing and appearing out of nowhere, and it all makes perfect sense. Overall, I feel like you're just writing something crazy for the sake of it being crazy, and it ends up just so over the top, it falls flat. Your writing is good, though - I feel like you could pull off something more serious, too, and maybe even use parts of this for it.


    And now, for my story, or at least chapter one thereof. It's currently untitled, cuz I suck at that. Genre would be fantasy. It clocks in at 2,808 words
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    There were three basic scenarios that described most of the situations Illíam Duánkirke, or Liam as he was better known, found himself in:

    1. Liam set out to complete a fairly ordinary exercise for class in the normal way, but for a variety of reasons things went horribly, and quite creatively, wrong. Through a barely-licit mixture of quick thinking, fast talking, and very good luck, he managed to get through by the skin of his teeth. The story of it was so fantastic that it spread throughout campus, until a much-altered version reached the ears of a senior official or professor. Liam was called in for a mild rebuke, in which he was praised for his “obvious gifts,” but it was suggested that next time, perhaps, he should be willing to try some more conventional methods first.

    2. Liam ran into a fairly attractive, mildly popular girl who had recently broken up with her boyfriend. She was lonely and in search of comfort; Liam was more than happy to oblige her. A few days later, she either returned to her old boyfriend or met a new one, who was “just right.” She was very sorry, but she had to break up with Liam, and hoped one day he could find someone as good for him as her new boyfriend was for her. They could still be friends, of course, but it would be better if they never spoke to each other again; she didn’t want her boyfriend getting the wrong idea.

    3. Someone was faced with a problem they needed someone else to take care of. They consulted the advice of a third person, who had only precursory knowledge of both the problem and Liam. That person would almost invariably say, “Hey, I know a lad, name of Liam, supposed to be good with that sort of thing, give him a look.” The person with the problem, who was usually too important for Liam to refuse but not important enough to get an actual adult to handle it, would accept the advice at its face, and Liam was stuck with what was usually an opening for Scenario 1, and would probably involve Scenario 2 somewhere.

    The long and short of it was that Liam felt that he had rather a false reputation. At Tiberius’ Academy for the Military Arts, at least, he was hailed as a brilliant but maverick tactician, a willing and dependable helper, and a playboy with a heart of gold. In actuality, he just has very odd luck. Whenever he tried to explain this to people, it always ended up in a confusing justification as to why yes, that had happened, but he hadn’t meant it to, or rather, hadn’t meant it like that, and usually ended with whoever was on the other side of the conversation assuming he was just humble with it.

    The latest situation, however, was a perfect example of the last scenario, and could entirely be blamed on Liam’s Uncle Fyron. Not unlike Liam himself, Fyron had not been sure how to handle being an elvish prince, but instead of being sent to military school by a warlord father, Fyron had run away from home to be an adventurer, and spent whatever time he could spare from the High Court robbing dragons, killing liches, and rescuing lovely human princesses. He was probably the most thrilling person Liam had ever met, but as a side effect was not overly familiar with his niece or nephew. For some reason, he had thought it was a good idea for Liam to spend the summer watching his much younger cousin, Princess Ameir’lya Duánkirke.

    Mei, as almost everyone else called her, was a bit of an unusual case. She was, without a doubt, the Crown Princess, but she was also illegitimate, born the daughter of the Faerie Queen and a dark elf, their sworn enemies. She had been conceived out of a wild affair with a runaway male, who had charmed Queen T’fianya, stolen a great deal of her less distinctive jewelry, and presumably made his way to lose himself in the nearest big city, leaving only a meager cluster of cells in his wake. There was no hiding Mei’s heritage, it was written all over her skin, literally – she was a lovely, if unconventional, shade of sky blue – and the problem was only compounded by the fact that she showed every sign of being a very powerful sorceress before long. At the tender age of eight, her very existence was a serious matter of state, but that was not Liam’s objection to her. His objection was based on the fact that she was also an utter brat.

    Liam had been looking forward to a relaxing summer after the catastrophe that had been his Wilderness Survival practical, which had at least got him extra credit for his Elementary First Aid class. He was planning on spending it “studying” abroad in La-Fayed, and had arranged lodgings through a friend at the local Philosophical University of Magicke. Apparently, when Fyron had heard of the locale, he had somehow gotten the notion that Liam actually planned to associate with the college. Based on the letter Liam had gotten, the queen was concerned about Mei’s status with the rest of the council, and had felt it might ease tensions if the young princess spent a few months away from court. An opportunity to learn more about her burgeoning abilities would, of course, only be an advantage. At the time, he had replied to his aunt with a polite agreement. It turned out this counted as agreeing to spend the entire summer babysitting. And so, Liam found himself waiting at the nearest thunder-train station with a heavy heart, the arrival of the end of summer growing closer by the minute.

    He was shook out of his reverie by a sharp, little-girl voice screeching his name. “Liam!” it snapped at him from the region of his middle, accompanied by a beleaguered-looking young elf, burdened with several oversized bags and a look of utter weariness. They exchanged sympathetic glances, both knowing the cause of it.

    “At your service, cousin,” Liam responded smoothly, trying not to groan audibly. Mei glowered up at him, unimpressed, and he could smell the faint ozone odor of magic in the air. He brushed it off, and began to unload her manservant. From his look of relief, he was not accompanying them on the trip. Liam staggered under the weight of the bags, and Mei sniffed. This time Liam’s groan was audible.

    It was not without some difficulty that he got them all loaded onto the train. Their tickets were for the cheaper seats, which got another sniff from Mei. The pair settled down across from each other, each blatantly looking elsewhere. Mei, as far as Liam could tell, was Not Speaking To Him. She was apparently still miffed about he had rebuffed her spell.

    Liam felt the uncomfortably familiar creep of too many people staring at him. He was well aware that they made a striking pair together. Mei in particular stood out, with her azure complexion and lavender locks, offset by her pupil-less purple eyes, which whispered dark elf, and her bright pink dress that yelled princess as loudly as any inanimate object could hope to. Liam, for his part, looked like a picture of St. George or similar, still dressed in his school’s jerkin and bits of his mail, especially since he was embarrassingly fair and blue-eyed. Both had the same petite build and puckish features; and both, of course, had sharply pointed ears. Liam knew he would have to get used to it, but would it be too much for him to ask for to just get a break? Not that it was likely to happen any time soon, what with his sister hanging around.

    Mei seemed to have decided she was bored with Not Speaking. She reached across and tugged roughly on the sleeve of his shirt. Once again, Liam felt the tug of a spell, stronger this time. Look at me, it whispered. Listen to me. “I’m hungry,” she demanded as if that in and of itself was as good as an order. Liam sighed, and dug round his bag for any spare change. After Mei had settled herself with the least dodgy meat pie Liam could find, he leaned back into his severely jolting seat, and tried to relax. Only three more hours, he reminded himself. Only three more hours and then two more months.

    At some point during the ride both must have does off, for it came to an end much sooner than he had expected. Liam dug out his map, and then realized he had no way of carrying it, not with all of their bags as well. “Mei?” he asked desperately

    “What do you want?”

    “Do you think you could carry some of your bags?”

    “Of course.”

    Even Liam knew that trick. “Well, then do it. I’ve got to handle the map, alright?” Mei looked poised to start a temper tantrum, but seemed to decide against it. Her expression was still angry though, as she carefully picked out the two smallest bags, leaving Liam with his arms still loaded. They had made it off the train at last, but Liam was contemplating dumping a bag, when he caught sight of a skinny, auburn-haired boy with glasses.

    “Tim! Hey, Tim!” he called out, and Tim spun around with a confused look on his face.

    “Who’s this?” Tim asked, gesturing at Mei.

    “My name is Princess Ameir’yla Duánkirke,” she replied haughtily, nose in the air. “And who, might I ask, are you?”

    “Timorous Waxley,” he replied, bending down and holding his hand out, a disarming grin on his face. Mei apparently had backup weapons; her expression did not change a bit. He gave Liam a slightly less pleased look as he helped unload him.

    “Cousin Mei,” Liam hissed at him. “Babysitting. All summer long, too.”

    “I know how you feel. My sister’s got a room at the same place ours is. I mean, I love her, I really do, but she needs so much looking after.”

    “How old is she?”

    “Oh, about your age. There’s a really good girl’s school in town, and the landlady’s a witch in her spare time, so it works out well, but she can be so naïve about things.”

    “Hmm,” Liam said noncommittally. He couldn’t help sympathizing with her a little bit – he knew Tim could be a worrywart, and there was a world of difference between an eight year old and a sixteen year old. His treacherous imagination also could not help wondering what Tim’s sister looked like, exactly. If she was pretty… He dismissed the thought. There would be plenty of girls in La-Fayed who weren’t related to his friend.

    When at last they arrived at the boarding house, Tim began to fumble awkwardly with the bags. As he finally gained a purchase on the doorknob, somebody else pulled it out from his hand. Rather mournful dark eyes met Liam’s as a boy only a few years older than Mei stepped out, watching the proceedings with what seemed to be detached interest. Liam noticed with surprise that he seemed to be elvish; the painfully straight black hair and permanently haughty eyebrows suggested that he was of the grey elf clan.

    “Ah, Mr. Waxley. Would I be correct in assuming that this is your guest Mr. Duánkirke?” he asked, the formal speech sounding odd in his young voice.

    “Hey, Sylok. Yep, this is Liam. Give me some help with the bags, would you?”

    “As you wish. Who is the little girl?”

    Liam bit his lip to stop from groaning, but Mei did not have so much restraint. “How dare you!” she spat angrily, stamping a foot. “I am no little girl – I am the royal princess Ameir’yla Duánkirke! And besides, I’m just as tall you are! Show some respect for your sovereign!”

    Sylok seemed unfazed by Mei’s outburst. “I am sorry to have offended you, but I fear you are mistaken. The Duánkirke dynasty is only sovereign among the High Elves of Norendeil, whereas my family are citizens of the Suvian Isles.” He paused, cocking an eyebrow. “What is more, based on my estimations, I am one centimeter taller than you.” He swung some of the bags onto his shoulders, and began heading back into the house.

    Liam realized he had been staring a bit and shook his head. Mei, to his delight, looked on the point of bursting with rage. “Who is he?” he asked Tim, awed.

    “Some kid genius or something. He actually takes classes at the university. I think he comes from some important elvish family off to the east. He’s always correcting me, and he never shuts up,” he added gloomily.

    “Well, you are wrong a lot,” said a girl’s voice from the same doorway. The speaker was a grinning teenage girl with short burgundy hair and bright blue eyes. “Hi, Tim. This your friend Liam?”

    “Yes, yes he is. Are you going to make yourself useful, or stand around making fun of me?”

    The girl winked at Liam. “Can’t I do both at the same time?” She stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Liam. I’m Dess, though I suppose Tim’s told you all about me.”

    Liam shook her hand appreciatively. “Not at all. He left out how pretty you are.” Tim rolled his eyes at this, but didn’t comment.

    Dess’s cheeks colored a bit, but she did not seem too impressed. “And who’s this?” she asked, as though she had just spotted Mei. “Your little sister? She’s so cute.”

    “That’s my cousin Mei,” Liam said quickly, before Mei had a chance to get her customary introduction in. To his annoyance, she contrived to look angelic instead.

    “Is she really? She’s so darling. And such gorgeous hair!” Dess crouched rather unnecessarily, and held out a hand to Mei, which the younger girl ignored. “I just love kids,” she continued, as if Mei was not present. “I get along really well with Sylok. Anyway, it’s nice meeting you. Let’s see, you’ve seen Sylok already, so that leaves Lizzy, oh! And Tara, you’ll want to meet her, of course.” She grabbed Liam’s hand and dragged him inside. Liam chuckled a bit when he saw the look on Tim’s face.

    The inside of the boarding house was rather dark, and, after the long train ride and hauling the bags, blessedly cool. Liam shook hands with a plump middle-aged woman who he assumed was the landlady. “Sorry we don’t have more room,” she said, sounding decidedly distracted. “You can share with Tim and Sylok, and your sister can room with Dess and Tara.”

    Liam nodded, grateful for a place to finally dump his armload of bags. The rooms themselves were a little cramped, with two plain bunk beds in each. It was very white and clean looking, but sparse. Mei seemed quite happy to sit down on her bed, and Liam noticed with some surprise that she seemed perhaps more saddened than cross. He thought about saying something, but it did not seem like a wise idea.

    The boys’ room was much the same, though slightly less orderly. Liam suspected the very neat bed was Sylok’s; the very untidy one thus went to Tim. He had started to relax a bit, when the door banged open. It was Dess again, accompanied by an older girl this time. She was quite tall, nearly Tim’s height, and a long black plait snaked down her back. Liam supposed she was not bad-looking, but he did not care for her expression. She seemed to be utterly summing him up.

    “This is Tara,” explained Dess, smiling sweetly. “She works for Lizzy, but she’s training to be a warrior, just like you. Tara, this is Illiam Duánkirke. He’s a friend of Tim’s.”

    “Elf, huh?” asked Tara. Her tone suggested smirking. “And a schoolboy, too. One of those fancy private academy, I’ll bet.”

    “Yeah,” replied Liam a little snappishly. “I go to Tiberius.”

    To his surprise, she actually looked a bit impressed. “Not bad. I hear you actually fight sometimes there.” She grinned, and stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Illiam.”

    Liam shook her hand, noting her surprisingly strong grip. “Just Liam works. And it’s nice meeting you, too.”

    “Well, we’ll love you and leave you, then. I’ve got a suspicion Dess has been pestering you long enough today, and you’ll want to get settled. Besides, I’ve probably got some dishes to wash.”

    After the girls had left, Liam flopped down on his bed, sighing a bit. It seemed in his opinion that there were far too many extremely strong personalities here for a single boarding house. It was likely to be a very long summer indeed.


    Avatar of Calder by Akrim.elf

  12. - Top - End - #132
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Lord Raziere's Avatar

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    Neko Tails critique
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    Intro: Seems like random meaningless meandering, its good for a philosophical discussion, but people come to read a story, not some guy going "is something fantasy or not?"" or something, I just wouldn't include this, it doesn't contribute to the story overall and just seems like telling, so I'd cut it out.

    Prologue: What is the point of this? How does it contribute to the story? it just tells people what they will already know later on; catgirl is imprisoned, creepy doctor guy does his job for paranoid reasons and she wants out of here, the clinic and the guy who is running it are bad guys, and why would the public even know the place existed, even as a place for insane people? the government knows even the slightest chance of someone discovering the place would cause an uproar so why is it even located where a reporter could get there? I would just cut this out as well and put the super-prison someplace remote and out of the way where no one can find it. I'd take what Dr. Marcus says here and try to put it somewhere in chapter 1.

    Chap 1: ok, here is the bulk of it and here is where things actually happen.
    I like how Dr. Marcus is in his own way, human and caring. He may be creepy, the character may disagree with him and clearly he is meant to be an antagonist- but he believes what he is doing is right, he truly wants Serenade to be cared for despite not wanting her to pose a threat to humanity. In short you could easily see him as an anti-hero rather than a villain and he is at the very least, an anti-villain, but above all he is human, he is a real person with a logical reasonable belief, and he makes me unsure whether what Serenade is doing is really right or not- like all good villains should, take your example with Dr. Marcus and apply it to all the villains you create. you got him covered, leave him as is.

    The "In Medias Res" style works here, I can't picture any other way for the story to start, the prologue and intro just seem to be holding it down, ruining it, yea just start the story with the "In Medias res" and it will be fine, just skip the first two things.

    The explanation of the past is intrusive, but needed and actually good since and after-action explanation is practically required for a good "In Medias Res" opening so people know what is going on, I'd keep it in so the reader wouldn't be like "uh...WHAT? whats going on here?"

    I like how she encounters the old man and how she gets the card and the dialogue between them, well written, I'd keep that as is, because it all fits together, gives you a clue that there is more to this than you think. I also like how it ends with Serenade going through the vortex, it will be interesting to see where it sends her, makes the reader want to read on, tugs at the curiosity, see?

    overall, its good if you cut off the intro and prologue and stick to the story proper, you have a good sense of what leads to what, just don't get caught up in meaningless meandering and redundancy and you'll be fine.

    Vatsy and Bruno 1 critique
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    I like it, you capture the strange way Vatsy thinks well and provide a good foil with Bruno, creating a good dynamic that produces this weird spin of a beat, a constant that allows you set the tone and feel of things, I can almost hear this weird gritty music playing in the background as this all goes on.

    You pull off cynicism well, you don't make it seem bleak, just a functional cynicism, as in you make it both seem normal and cynical at the same time which is good, you get a sense that its dark and gritty but its the kind of
    cynicism that works, the kind that keeps things running despite it being cynical, its functional, its cynical, its dark- its normal, I even like the inclusion of the mad scientist and his solution to save the mutated man from death- and what really happens instead, you dealt with that well.

    Lastly I like the satirical, slightly whimsical side to it as well, the dark comedy edge part of it also seems to fit, keep it all from sagging, keeping the reader and the place on its toes makes everything move and go forward, and you weave it well with the functional cynicism, the story feels fast paced and moving, it makes you feel like things are going somewhere and things are happening even though they aren't.

    overall, the story flows, it all fits and it is all functional, its not in your face or raw, it seems finely tuned and well-written, makes you interested, keeps you interested and at the end of day you make it all seem normal, functioning and regular, well done sir.

    Worlds without Number Chapter 1 critique
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    I like how you open things with that scientists speech. It gives you the impression that something great is about to happen, that he is building up to something, and that something is about to happen, it makes you go "what the HECK is this guy talking about?" it makes you want to read on, does a good job of getting you interested right off the bat which is good for any writer.

    It leads up well to the Gauntlet and the premise, providing a logical base for why it was invented-the conditions on other planets are unfeasible for humans so, why not make something to go to parallel earths? it provides an actual reason to do that "jumping from parallel universe to parallel universe" premise.

    and I like how the protagonist seemed to be reflecting back upon the moment and saying what he felt about the scientist who made him do it, and what he felt about the gauntlet and things, the "science fiction" usage seems a little jarring, but it provides a good comparison and recognition type of thing: lab assistant being forced to do the mad scientists experiment for him while everyone is watching in awe of the new technology, kinda makes me smile and chuckle.

    and I liked how he decided at the end to say "to heck with it all, I'm doing this anyways, I'm gonna be the first person to be in another universe and they are not, so I'll just feel good about cause I'm actually going there"
    good to see some adventurous spirit in the protagonist, and some initiative as well so that he is not just one of those loser anti-heroes that cower and go "I don't want this!" kind of garbage

    overall, strong opening, interesting protagonist, nice concept, keep it up.


    now that is finished, I'll be posting my story soon, hope y'all like them and my critiques.
    Last edited by Lord Raziere; 2010-03-30 at 10:23 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #133
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    please critique my story

    warning: its exposition heavy, doesn't take place on earth and has no humans.

    The Stories of Trizap: Neomind.
    Chapter One.
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    Chapter 1
    3100 PWD (Post Warp-Drive)

    Trizap looked out at the stars through the screen. Despite the high subluminal speeds the spaceship Ferocitas was going, they stood still. One of the greatest misconceptions the Planetbound- people who never traveled to other planets- was that you could see stars move by in space as you traveled. Completely wrong of course, that was like assuming the mountains in the distance would move by as you walked along a path.
    Trizap rubbed his eyes, how much sleep did he get these past three weeks? Going through Warp Space screwed up your view of time- with most indicators of the passage of time stripped away, anyone who traveled through space eventually acquired a bad sense of time. Days, weeks, months, years- they started to blur together and started to become just words rather than anything meaningful. It didn’t help that planets had such varied orbits and length of days.
    Iota was right Trizap thought to himself There is nothing out there but little lights in the void.
    The ship Ferocitas was a grey blocky ship with a few patch jobs here and there, a newer ship- only 150 years old. There were no windows- no fool designed a ship with windows, he had been viewing space through a camera.
    Trizap was a Felinaen- or as he was commonly called, a cat man. He had orange fur all over, was wearing tan pants, a blue shirt and a carbon nanotube coat. He had a tail, thick whisker mustache, pointy cat ears, green eyes, a pink nose and a large jagged diagonal scar across his face, going from his right forehead, between his eyes and across his left cheek. He was thin, lean and only five feet tall. Growing bored with look at empty space, Trizap looked over at his two companions: Zeran, was a young Felinaen like himself- Trizap and Zeran are both fifteen years old- and Xocnicar, a Metallicaen, who was older than both of them. Xoc and Zeran were playing Infinichess, a holographic three-dimensional ultra-complicated version of the original game, if anyone of course remembered if the original game ever existed.
    Zeran, unlike Trizap had black fur and yellow eyes. He was taller, his whisker mustache was thinner, his fur was neater than Trizaps and he wore a brown trench coat over grey pants and white shirt. Trizap liked Zeran; they often had discussions of which Zeran would call arguments, over so many topics and subjects. He considered Zeran his intellectual equal.
    “How are you doing at that game, Zeran?”
    Trizap asked, breaking the silence.
    “I’m pretty sure that I’ve got him right where I want him.”
    “Yea right” said Xocnicar “I’m going to beat you- and only a few moves.”
    Xocnicar had metallic steel skin, he had curly hair made out of copper and a similarly curly beard of copper, and his eyes irises were red and hexagonal. He wore a trench coat made of chain mail, blue colored pants and a rubber shirt. He was equal in height to Zeran.
    “You know” Trizap replied “That smells like overconfidence there, perhaps you guys should be more wary of each other?”
    “You are calling us overconfident?” Zeran said “That’s rich, coming from you. You were the one who took all the risks back on Veratum Deroga.”
    “At least I wasn’t cowering in caution and babbling at what he was afraid of at the moment.”
    “Hey! Trizap those are legitimate fears, who knows when you will be attacked from behind? Or ambushed from something big like a building? Or when a disease will strike? Or when a fire will break out? You can’t tell when that will stuff will happen Trizap! It is why I am always prepared and have studied magic to deal with such possibilities!”
    “Oh right...the magic which currently consists of minor illusions and some power to read minds. You are very prepared, Mr. Planner.”
    “You are not too hot either, you self-proclaimed super-hacker tech-master- when you are really just an amateur hacker with a gun and knife who grew up on the streets!”
    Xocnicar rolled his eyes, he will have to wait. When the two Felinaen started to argue it would take time for them to stop.
    “At least I can fight. What can you do? You’re a fledgling Hattie, who mostly learned his spells off of discarded textbooks.”
    “Hey, I protest against that! I’m not one of those weirdo traditionalists who still wear those silly hats since the medieval ages.”
    “What? You use magic, you are a Hattie. How are you possibly different?”
    “You are uninformed. Hatties mostly refer to wizards who still haven’t accepted how magic truly works. They believe its all mumbo-jumbo speaking and finger-wiggling, but any sane person today knows that magic obeys physics. That “conjuring” magic? That’s just transmuting energy into matter, no nonsense about “creating things out of thin air” its simple Law of Conservation of Matter of Energy.”
    “Whatever Zeran, but you’re still a Hattie.”
    “Unfortunately the term is beginning to refer to wizards in general, much to my annoyance.”
    “Jeese, afraid of everything, annoyed by everything, make up your mind.”
    “You are what is, annoying Trizap.”
    “I know and I’m awesome at it.”
    “…You are also so caught up in your ego that you mistake insults for compliments.”
    “I know Zeran, someday you will reach where I am, and you will be thankful to have met me, just keep charging on, you’ll see.”
    Zeran could not tell whether that last sentence was sarcasm or not. Namely, whether he was being sarcastic, or lying.
    “I’m bored….hey speaking of hacking, I wonder if I can hack into the Ondaristi News Network’s “SpecialView” News, y’know the news that isn’t filled with propaganda and blatant advertising for Ondaristi Industries products, the news that you have to pay high prices for.”
    Trizap pulled back his sleeve to reveal his Computatch on his wrist. A highly advanced version of the computer phones of three thousand years ago, it was capable of a million different functions and programs for the users convenience, could hold fully sapient AI’s had enough memory to hold two million 3-D videos in high-definition and five million high quality songs. It had a flexible intuitive interface that could adapt to the alien species using it and was capable of translating any language entered into the Cosmo-Net. Trizap had found it in a junkyard, he estimated it was about 100 years since it was produced and 300 years outdated.
    A holographic keyboard and screen made out of millions of nanobots formed above the Computatch, each little robot emitting a little light to form a sparkling virtual interface to look exactly like an old-fashioned artifact laptop floating in the air. Trizap started pressing keys rapidly, his fingers honed over years of hacking.
    “Bah, Trizap you can’t possibly hack onto the website of a Mega-Company, Ondaristi Industries is richer than half of the Outer World nations-which are run by criminals and all. They probably hired experienced programmers to design their own anti-hacking semi-intelligences to block anyone trying then send out an alert that allows them to track the person down-“
    “In, it was easy system to breach.”
    “What? That doesn’t make any sense. They couldn’t possibly be that easy to hack.”
    “Either they are lax on Cosmo-Net security I’m just that good. Who knows?”
    “Eh, whatever, what does it say then, Trizap?”
    “ Let see….There is something about the United Planets still arguing over some minor war ten years ago…..not news at all…”
    The United Planets were practically legendary for being unable to decide anything at all due to the millions of representatives attending it, most of said representatives don’t actually stand for the planets they were sent from anymore as by the time they got there relativity had struck and planetary policy had changed over the 30 years that the representative had been flying through in a month. Too many interests plus outdated representation plus impractical centralization equaled ineffective organization for resolving galactic issues. Most people didn’t pay attention to them anymore.
    “What else, huh nation stock is going up, guess a few filthy rich guys are gonna be buying long some nations soon. There are also space pirate attacks rising as well, probably to attack those wealthy guys.”
    “Good thing if they did.” Xocnicar commented “Some people need less money in their pockets.”
    “In religion news, the Narcissists are arguing with the Randomists over whether free will or random chance determines what choice we make…bah uninteresting. Some random politician called Cervini has died…oh here is something interesting, Ondaristi is building a new model of PACE armor and its projected that the prototype will be completed in five years.”
    “Um, Trizap” Zeran spoke up “Explain to those of us not technologically enlightened what a ‘PACE Armor’ is.”
    “The ‘PACE’ stands for ‘Power Armored Combat Exoskeleton’. The PACE system of armor is a form of highly protective armor that augments strength and speed, plus other things depending the modifications. It was originally designed for combat purposes 450 years ago, but over time it has evolved to help in lumber, mining, construction and rescue purposes. Firemen even use variants to help get people out of buildings. This new PACE Armor is basically supposed to make all the others obsolete and add a measure of adaptability to the design.”
    “Great.” Zeran rolled his eyes. “You have your eyes set on it now, whenever you see another techno-toy to play with you will always want to go after it and steal it, won’t you?”
    Trizap smiled at this.
    “Yup why shouldn’t I? Its there, I like it and I can probably make one-hundred-and-one improvements to it they have never thought of.”
    “I dunno….cause taking it would be against the law?”
    “Law? Law!? Zeran, do not bother me about the rain, I’m perfectly free and fine without a coat.”
    “….What is that even supposed to mean?” Zeran wondered aloud.
    Then the ship’s A.I. Iota chimed in on the ships’ intercom.
    “Attention everyone, we are now exiting Warp Space.”
    Outside, the Ferocitas silently exited Warp Space, or more accurately its own temporary tunnel of which the Ferocitas itself created. Warp Space acted as a sort of short cut through space for spaceships as no one ever really found a way to go faster than the speed of light, so people instead made a shorter space to travel through. However the travel time still takes weeks at the shortest and years at the longest, no one has ever managed to shorten space past a certain point using it. Whether this is an arbitrary limit of physics or an engineering problem has still not been discovered yet.
    Reverse Anti-Grav Engines slid of the bulk of the Ferocitas and began to slow the vessel down. It would take hours still for the Ferocitas to reach its destination; Warp space wasn’t the most exact thing either, a spaceship ended up roughly in the same solar system as the planet but from then on it had to slow itself down to simulate friction while it headed towards its destination.
    “Huh.” Trizap commented “That was different from when we entered Warp Space.”

    3100 PWD, Three Weeks Ago.

    “Attention everyone, we are now about to enter Warp Space, better brace yourselves.”
    Everyone did so. Inside the Engine Room, electronic signals were sent into the Warpium, which bent gravity and space in front of the Ferocitas to form a wormhole. The Ferocitas then shot in at max speed.
    For a few seconds, inertia a force not lightly trifled with had the trio in its clutches. Their bodies felt great strain and stress upon them while the ship shuddered and shook- then it leveled out and went back to normal as they gone into Warp Space.
    “Whoa.” Zeran breathed “That was rough.”
    “Yea, entering Warp Space is always a little turbulent.” Xocnicar replied.
    Trizap however was wondering “Hey I wonder what stars look like from Warp Space”
    “Trizap.” Iota spoke “They look pretty much the same, nothing out there but little lights in the void. It is space, the textbook definition of desolate.”

    The Present

    They were now approaching a Solar Recharge Satellite above the planet of Dalvinger. The Ferocitas docked in it, and a panel slid back to allow a giant recharger from the satellite to jack in and start recharging the ship. Xocnicar made a little mental note to himself to pay for the recharge as soon as possible- Recharge Satellite Attendants could easily get your ship if you didn’t pay your debt in time.
    There were other ships outside, also recharging. Many were old as or older than the Ferocitas, some looked neater, others were plagued with big patchwork repairs across its exterior, and some were just plain cobbled together from various parts and ships to form this scrapbook amalgam of a ship from various centuries.
    “Ok, Zeran, Trizap, lets head on down to the landing shuttle.”
    They walked on down to the ships hangar where the shuttle was located. Said shuttle was blocky and ugly but functional. They got in, Xocnicar gave Iota the go-ahead to open the ships ramp and the shuttle sped out of the Ferocitas and down to the planet.
    As they gone down towards the planet, speeding away from the ship, Trizap looked down upon the globe: surrounded by large bodies of water were big sprawling cityscapes covering entire continents with rectangular patches of forests, plains and mountains here and there so that the ecology was completely destroyed. Trizap saw various shuttles silently either flying back up to their battered ships or flying down to Dalvinger.
    As the shuttle entered the atmosphere, it deployed a Pyronic Shield to shield itself from the reentry’s air friction. The subatomic particles called Pyrons linked themselves together, forming a special friction-resistant lattice and taking the shape of an orb around the shuttle to keep it from burning up in the atmosphere.
    When they got past the point of atmospheric reentry, the Pyronic Shield lowered and Trizap got a view of the cityscape. It looked like a shining metropolis of towering massive Skystabbers supported by numerous similarly large half-arches which were built to support each other, support the Skystabbers. Numerous Grav-Cars using Warpium to defy gravity flew about between the massive buildings. From this vantage point it looked clean, orderly and progressive towards a better tomorrow for all. One could see various lights of 3-D advertisements and public 3-D televisions down below and a river of people flowing through the bridges and walkways of Dalvinger.
    They soon landed at a shuttle port, Xocnicar taking care in the landing so as not to receive a parking ticket.



    (now I'll watch as you all tear it apart...)

  14. - Top - End - #134
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Critique of Untitled Story by Tira-chan

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    So far, I like this story. It looks like it has the potential to develop into something interesting.

    I definitely like the opening. It's a pretty strong opening and a good indication of what the rest of the story will be like. It introduces Liam very well, giving the readers a good idea of what he's like, and also sets a fairly light-hearted tone for the story.

    I also like the way the story is written. Most of it flows pretty well, and I like the little side-jokes (the Wilderness Survival Class/First Aid line made me laugh).

    In some parts, however, it needs some tightening up. The paragraph describing Mei, in particular, could use some work, especially the first half. For example, the line "born the daughter of the Faerie Queen and a dark elf, their sworn enemies." Who is the 'they'? Are the Faeries and the dark elves sworn enemies? And I though Liam was an elven prince, so why is the faerie/dark elf related to him? Unless dark elves aren't a separate species from regular elves, in which case you may want to make that clear. Besides clarification, the entire paragraph just needs some streamlining.

    So overall, I do like the story, and I'd be interested in seeing how it turns out. There's just a few things that need some tweaking, I think.


    Critique of the Stories of Trizap: Neomind by Lord Raziere.

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    Okay. The first thing you should probably work on is grammar and structure. The way the paragraphs run together and the lack of proper grammar makes it fairly difficult to read.

    Regarding the story itself, I like parts of your style. You do a good job of showing and not telling in most parts. It is very exposition-heavy, as you said, but it's not just blatant info-dumping. I'd still cut down on what you can, but you did a nice job of explaining the world through natural things like arguments.

    However, your dialogue needs some work. The general idea is there, but parts of it sound forced and unnatural.

    Some of your tenses and points of view are a little bizarre too. For example, "Zeran, was a young Felinaen like himself- Trizap and Zeran are both fifteen years old- and Xocnicar, a Metallicaen, who was older than both of them." Here, the "Trizap and Zeran are both fifteen years old" line completely breaks the flow of the story and makes it seem as though the narratative suddenly remembered to throw it in. You could try something like "Zeran was another young Felinaen, just a few months [older/younger] than Trizap's fifteen years."

    Again, in the line "Xoc and Zeran were playing Infinichess, a holographic three-dimensional ultra-complicated version of the original game, if anyone of course remembered if the original game ever existed." So far, the point of view has been third-person limited - following Trizap's thoughts. But this breaks the flow of the narrative again. It seems as though Trizap doesn't remember the original game, so why is that thrown in there? There's no sign of an omniscient narrator that does remember the game, so the narrative shouldn't be saying much about it.

    So far, this story does a good job of creating the setting. The very first paragraph indicates that this takes place in a futuristic setting and implies that the story will lean towards harder sci-fi elements. Again, though, I'd advise you to clean up the grammar and format of the piece before doing much else with it. It would make it easier to read, therefore making it easier to see where the good and bad parts are.

  15. - Top - End - #135
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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    Critique of The Empty Ruins, by Death Dragon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Death Dragon View Post
    The Empty Ruins
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    An icy wind whistled through the ruins of the keep, skimming the tops of fallen walls and howling through gaps in once-solid stone. A few lone, shredded banners still flapped forlornly, the only noise in this sparkling world.

    The snow lay thick across the ground, its blinding brilliance marred only occasionally by broken stones, and by one set of footprints across the ruined courtyard.

    A voice rang out behind Derek, unnaturally loud in the still air.

    “This used to be one of the greatest castles in the world, you know. Used to guard the passes through the mountains. Hard to believe now, isn’t it?”

    “Alec”, Derek replied coolly. He did not turn around.

    Alec stepped out from behind a pillar in front of Derek.

    “You never fall for that,” he said, disappointed.”I’d hoped that the echoes here might confuse you. Maybe next time, then.”

    “Are you truly insane now?” Derek asked bitterly. “Did you forget that you’re a traitor?”

    Alec grew serious. “But I’m really not,” he said earnestly. He stepped forward, footsteps muffled by the snow. “We were wrong, we were doing everything wrong the whole time. All I did was switch to the right side. You can too, you know, it’s not too late.”

    “Some people can’t switch allegiances like others switch clothes, Alec.”

    Alec sighed. “You’re still being stubborn,” he said accusingly. “You just refuse to see it. Just switch over, they have the right of it over here. Come on, it’ll be before I switched. We’ll be on the same team again. It’s stupid to hate each other after all we’ve been through.”

    The most astonishing thing was that he was dead serious, Derek reflected. He’d really be willing to forget it all, and he really believed that if Derek switched sides, they would simply accept the leader of their opposition.

    He shook his head. “Alec Krisor,” he said formally.

    “Oh gods,” muttered Alec.

    “You have undeniably betrayed your order and broken your vows,” Derek recited. “As of this reading, you are no longer a member of the Order. You are free to go where you will, but all men shall know you as forsworn, and no member shall extend hospitality wherever you go.”

    Alec sighed again. “Really, Derek? Even at the end, you do cling to your formality.”

    The wind was blowing even harder now, and a light snowfall had begun. Alec was protected by the pillar he was leaning against, but Derek wished he had more protection.

    “Is it an end then?” He asked unconcernedly.

    “Come on, Derek. I don’t want to fight you.”

    “Then don’t. I only came to formally deliver the message. I’m leaving now.”

    “Ah, well see, I can’t actually let you leave. Frankly, I was supposed to kill or capture you when I first saw you ten minutes ago.”

    “I know that,” Derek said. “Everyone in your new alliance has those orders.”

    “And you still came personally? I’m rather impressed. I didn’t think that delivering such an obvious message to a single traitor was worth dying for.”

    “Well, like you said. It’d be a shame to forget all our history together. Of course, you could always not fight me. You know, make it easy on yourself,” Derek said. “

    “I can’t,” said Alec angrily. “I have my orders.”

    “So disobey them.”

    Alec shook his head, flakes of snow falling from his cloak. “I can’t,” he said, putting his hand to his sword. “Please, Derek, don’t make me fight you . . .”

    “I’m not going to make you do anything,” Derek said. “Don’t worry, I realize that your unquestioning loyalty to a fanatical order of lunatics sometimes clouds your judgment.”

    Alec frowned. “Sarcasm? From you? I must have made you angry.” He finally drew his sword, a light one-handed sword.

    Derek sighed and drew his own two-handed longsword.

    “It’s not too late,” Alec said. “You can still give in.”

    Derek waited impatiently. Alec would give up asking soon enough.

    “Fine,” said Alec, lunging forward, and as quickly as that the fight started.

    Derek found himself hard-pressed to defend himself. Alec was quick with a blade, and Derek hadn’t used one in a real fight in quite a while. His blows seemed softer, his defense slower, and at least three times he missed perfect openings in Alec’s guard. Alec, on the other hand, hadn’t seemed to miss an opening yet, and before long Derek was bleeding from several superficial scratches.

    The initial fight lasted only a few minutes, until Alec suddenly drew back, breathing hard. Derek made no move to pursue him. The snow in between them was broken and bloody now.

    “You’re losing,” Alec warned him.

    Derek did not reply. Sweat was running into his eyes, making it difficult to see clearly, but he didn’t dare release his sword to wipe it away.

    “I’ve given you all the chances I can,” Alec said. “This is your last one. Switch sides, or at least submit to capture rather than death.” Derek made no reply, and Alec frowned. “I can’t disobey my orders, Derek. What would you do if one of your underlings refused to carry out an order?”

    “My orders have never included slaughtering innocents, Alec,” Derek said, watching closely.

    “Well, that –“ There. The slightest, flickering hesitation.

    Derek brought his sword crashing down. Alec only just managed to block the sudden blow, and the clash echoed throughout the ruins.

    Derek pressed on, harder, not giving himself time to think. He let his instincts and training take over entirely. Now Alec was being driven back, stumbling through knee-high snow drifts, fighting to block Derek’s blows. Derek tried to stop seeing Alec as Alec, and just see him as another enemy to be killed . . .

    The end came suddenly. Alec took one more step backwards, and stumbled over a fallen stone, half-hidden in the snow. In an instant, Derek’s sword swung down, and Alec was sprawled on the ground, the crisp white snow rapidly turning red.

    Alec glared up at Derek, but his gaze lacked any real enmity. “I – I guess you were better after all,” he said, ruefully. “I –“ He stopped suddenly, and Derek guessed that the pain was coming through now.

    Derek stepped around Alec, leaving him in the snow as he hunted for his campsite. It was possible that Alec might be carrying important information . . .

    “Not – not talking?” Alec asked from behind him. “That’s ha – hardly fair, now.”

    Derek paused a moment, then replied as levelly as he could.

    “What would you have me say?”

    “I don’t know,” Alec said. “Just . . . don’t leave me to – to die alone.” The words were jerky, each one only produced through sheer effort of will.

    One thing no one could say about Alec was that he wasn’t determined, Derek thought angrily. He didn’t want Alec to be talking like they were old friends again. He wanted Alec to hate him, like he should. He wanted to be able to hate Alec. Instead, he turned around and went back over to Alec, sitting on a stone a few feet away.

    “Wasn’t sure you’d do it,” Alec said quietly. “I know – you hate me now. But – understand – you’re still wrong.”

    “And you accused me of being stubborn,” Derek muttered.

    “There’s . . . still a lot to – to say,” Alec began.

    “Not really.”

    Silence. And then, “Maybe you’re right. I – I don’t have much time to talk in, anyway.”

    A few more minutes passed in silence. “Thank you, though. I didn’t – didn’t want to die alone.”

    “Well . . . we do have a history,” Derek said.

    A few more minutes passed. Then, Derek carefully stood up. He walked over to Alec’s camp, and returned with a blanket. He wrapped the body in it, and then looked around. He couldn’t find anyplace better than a simple hollow in between two ruined walls, but it was better than nothing. After a moment of consideration, he moved the stone that Alec had tripped over, placing it as a sort of headstone over the makeshift grave. It was the sort of irony that Alec would have found amusing, no doubt.

    Derek left shortly thereafter. It was a long journey home, and he would have plenty of time to think on the way back. Behind him, a thin layer of snow was settling over the broken snow and blood.

    Twelve hours later, the wind still blew through the empty ruins, and a smooth, sparkling blanket was marred only by the occasional broken stone.
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    After I read this story, I sort of just sat there for about a minute, reflecting on how cruel life can be. Alec obviously used to be Derek's best friend, but he was forced to kill him. And yet, you had very little to emphasise this point. You should have had some kind of description of how, as Alec lay disarmed on the floor, Derek hesitated. He stood there, sweat running down his brow. He tried to swing the blade down for the killing blow but his arms had frozen. Eventually, he closed his eyes, and forced his arms down towards Alec. And then, after that, you have the bit with him walking away, and Alec calling him back.

    I would have also have liked some kind of backstory on what they were fighting for. Here is this great story, where I am plunged into the plot with no exposition at all. I don't mean you do a whole backstory at the beginning, I love how you started it, but just have the characters let little bits slip here and there, they just say short phrases that give clues to the plot, and as it is revealed, little by little, by the end we know some backstory without interrupting the beautiful flow of the story.

    However, even though I think those bits added in would improve it, I think that the bits that you did have were very well written. I really felt that I was there, watching their conversation, and their tragic fight.



    Yaaay, first critique. When I was looking at other peoples big ones, I thought "Woah... I'm never going to be able to write that much." But I did, and it all sort of just flowed. I was pretty surprised when I saw that I had written more that a paragraph!
    Last edited by Zolkabro; 2010-04-12 at 01:51 AM.

  16. - Top - End - #136
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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    Critique of the untitled story by Tira-Chan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tira-chan View Post
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    There were three basic scenarios that described most of the situations Illíam Duánkirke, or Liam as he was better known, found himself in:

    1. Liam set out to complete a fairly ordinary exercise for class in the normal way, but for a variety of reasons things went horribly, and quite creatively, wrong. Through a barely-licit mixture of quick thinking, fast talking, and very good luck, he managed to get through by the skin of his teeth. The story of it was so fantastic that it spread throughout campus, until a much-altered version reached the ears of a senior official or professor. Liam was called in for a mild rebuke, in which he was praised for his “obvious gifts,” but it was suggested that next time, perhaps, he should be willing to try some more conventional methods first.

    2. Liam ran into a fairly attractive, mildly popular girl who had recently broken up with her boyfriend. She was lonely and in search of comfort; Liam was more than happy to oblige her. A few days later, she either returned to her old boyfriend or met a new one, who was “just right.” She was very sorry, but she had to break up with Liam, and hoped one day he could find someone as good for him as her new boyfriend was for her. They could still be friends, of course, but it would be better if they never spoke to each other again; she didn’t want her boyfriend getting the wrong idea.

    3. Someone was faced with a problem they needed someone else to take care of. They consulted the advice of a third person, who had only precursory knowledge of both the problem and Liam. That person would almost invariably say, “Hey, I know a lad, name of Liam, supposed to be good with that sort of thing, give him a look.” The person with the problem, who was usually too important for Liam to refuse but not important enough to get an actual adult to handle it, would accept the advice at its face, and Liam was stuck with what was usually an opening for Scenario 1, and would probably involve Scenario 2 somewhere.

    The long and short of it was that Liam felt that he had rather a false reputation. At Tiberius’ Academy for the Military Arts, at least, he was hailed as a brilliant but maverick tactician, a willing and dependable helper, and a playboy with a heart of gold. In actuality, he just has very odd luck. Whenever he tried to explain this to people, it always ended up in a confusing justification as to why yes, that had happened, but he hadn’t meant it to, or rather, hadn’t meant it like that, and usually ended with whoever was on the other side of the conversation assuming he was just humble with it.

    The latest situation, however, was a perfect example of the last scenario, and could entirely be blamed on Liam’s Uncle Fyron. Not unlike Liam himself, Fyron had not been sure how to handle being an elvish prince, but instead of being sent to military school by a warlord father, Fyron had run away from home to be an adventurer, and spent whatever time he could spare from the High Court robbing dragons, killing liches, and rescuing lovely human princesses. He was probably the most thrilling person Liam had ever met, but as a side effect was not overly familiar with his niece or nephew. For some reason, he had thought it was a good idea for Liam to spend the summer watching his much younger cousin, Princess Ameir’lya Duánkirke.

    Mei, as almost everyone else called her, was a bit of an unusual case. She was, without a doubt, the Crown Princess, but she was also illegitimate, born the daughter of the Faerie Queen and a dark elf, their sworn enemies. She had been conceived out of a wild affair with a runaway male, who had charmed Queen T’fianya, stolen a great deal of her less distinctive jewelry, and presumably made his way to lose himself in the nearest big city, leaving only a meager cluster of cells in his wake. There was no hiding Mei’s heritage, it was written all over her skin, literally – she was a lovely, if unconventional, shade of sky blue – and the problem was only compounded by the fact that she showed every sign of being a very powerful sorceress before long. At the tender age of eight, her very existence was a serious matter of state, but that was not Liam’s objection to her. His objection was based on the fact that she was also an utter brat.

    Liam had been looking forward to a relaxing summer after the catastrophe that had been his Wilderness Survival practical, which had at least got him extra credit for his Elementary First Aid class. He was planning on spending it “studying” abroad in La-Fayed, and had arranged lodgings through a friend at the local Philosophical University of Magicke. Apparently, when Fyron had heard of the locale, he had somehow gotten the notion that Liam actually planned to associate with the college. Based on the letter Liam had gotten, the queen was concerned about Mei’s status with the rest of the council, and had felt it might ease tensions if the young princess spent a few months away from court. An opportunity to learn more about her burgeoning abilities would, of course, only be an advantage. At the time, he had replied to his aunt with a polite agreement. It turned out this counted as agreeing to spend the entire summer babysitting. And so, Liam found himself waiting at the nearest thunder-train station with a heavy heart, the arrival of the end of summer growing closer by the minute.

    He was shook out of his reverie by a sharp, little-girl voice screeching his name. “Liam!” it snapped at him from the region of his middle, accompanied by a beleaguered-looking young elf, burdened with several oversized bags and a look of utter weariness. They exchanged sympathetic glances, both knowing the cause of it.

    “At your service, cousin,” Liam responded smoothly, trying not to groan audibly. Mei glowered up at him, unimpressed, and he could smell the faint ozone odor of magic in the air. He brushed it off, and began to unload her manservant. From his look of relief, he was not accompanying them on the trip. Liam staggered under the weight of the bags, and Mei sniffed. This time Liam’s groan was audible.

    It was not without some difficulty that he got them all loaded onto the train. Their tickets were for the cheaper seats, which got another sniff from Mei. The pair settled down across from each other, each blatantly looking elsewhere. Mei, as far as Liam could tell, was Not Speaking To Him. She was apparently still miffed about he had rebuffed her spell.

    Liam felt the uncomfortably familiar creep of too many people staring at him. He was well aware that they made a striking pair together. Mei in particular stood out, with her azure complexion and lavender locks, offset by her pupil-less purple eyes, which whispered dark elf, and her bright pink dress that yelled princess as loudly as any inanimate object could hope to. Liam, for his part, looked like a picture of St. George or similar, still dressed in his school’s jerkin and bits of his mail, especially since he was embarrassingly fair and blue-eyed. Both had the same petite build and puckish features; and both, of course, had sharply pointed ears. Liam knew he would have to get used to it, but would it be too much for him to ask for to just get a break? Not that it was likely to happen any time soon, what with his sister hanging around.

    Mei seemed to have decided she was bored with Not Speaking. She reached across and tugged roughly on the sleeve of his shirt. Once again, Liam felt the tug of a spell, stronger this time. Look at me, it whispered. Listen to me. “I’m hungry,” she demanded as if that in and of itself was as good as an order. Liam sighed, and dug round his bag for any spare change. After Mei had settled herself with the least dodgy meat pie Liam could find, he leaned back into his severely jolting seat, and tried to relax. Only three more hours, he reminded himself. Only three more hours and then two more months.

    At some point during the ride both must have does off, for it came to an end much sooner than he had expected. Liam dug out his map, and then realized he had no way of carrying it, not with all of their bags as well. “Mei?” he asked desperately

    “What do you want?”

    “Do you think you could carry some of your bags?”

    “Of course.”

    Even Liam knew that trick. “Well, then do it. I’ve got to handle the map, alright?” Mei looked poised to start a temper tantrum, but seemed to decide against it. Her expression was still angry though, as she carefully picked out the two smallest bags, leaving Liam with his arms still loaded. They had made it off the train at last, but Liam was contemplating dumping a bag, when he caught sight of a skinny, auburn-haired boy with glasses.

    “Tim! Hey, Tim!” he called out, and Tim spun around with a confused look on his face.

    “Who’s this?” Tim asked, gesturing at Mei.

    “My name is Princess Ameir’yla Duánkirke,” she replied haughtily, nose in the air. “And who, might I ask, are you?”

    “Timorous Waxley,” he replied, bending down and holding his hand out, a disarming grin on his face. Mei apparently had backup weapons; her expression did not change a bit. He gave Liam a slightly less pleased look as he helped unload him.

    “Cousin Mei,” Liam hissed at him. “Babysitting. All summer long, too.”

    “I know how you feel. My sister’s got a room at the same place ours is. I mean, I love her, I really do, but she needs so much looking after.”

    “How old is she?”

    “Oh, about your age. There’s a really good girl’s school in town, and the landlady’s a witch in her spare time, so it works out well, but she can be so naïve about things.”

    “Hmm,” Liam said noncommittally. He couldn’t help sympathizing with her a little bit – he knew Tim could be a worrywart, and there was a world of difference between an eight year old and a sixteen year old. His treacherous imagination also could not help wondering what Tim’s sister looked like, exactly. If she was pretty… He dismissed the thought. There would be plenty of girls in La-Fayed who weren’t related to his friend.

    When at last they arrived at the boarding house, Tim began to fumble awkwardly with the bags. As he finally gained a purchase on the doorknob, somebody else pulled it out from his hand. Rather mournful dark eyes met Liam’s as a boy only a few years older than Mei stepped out, watching the proceedings with what seemed to be detached interest. Liam noticed with surprise that he seemed to be elvish; the painfully straight black hair and permanently haughty eyebrows suggested that he was of the grey elf clan.

    “Ah, Mr. Waxley. Would I be correct in assuming that this is your guest Mr. Duánkirke?” he asked, the formal speech sounding odd in his young voice.

    “Hey, Sylok. Yep, this is Liam. Give me some help with the bags, would you?”

    “As you wish. Who is the little girl?”

    Liam bit his lip to stop from groaning, but Mei did not have so much restraint. “How dare you!” she spat angrily, stamping a foot. “I am no little girl – I am the royal princess Ameir’yla Duánkirke! And besides, I’m just as tall you are! Show some respect for your sovereign!”

    Sylok seemed unfazed by Mei’s outburst. “I am sorry to have offended you, but I fear you are mistaken. The Duánkirke dynasty is only sovereign among the High Elves of Norendeil, whereas my family are citizens of the Suvian Isles.” He paused, cocking an eyebrow. “What is more, based on my estimations, I am one centimeter taller than you.” He swung some of the bags onto his shoulders, and began heading back into the house.

    Liam realized he had been staring a bit and shook his head. Mei, to his delight, looked on the point of bursting with rage. “Who is he?” he asked Tim, awed.

    “Some kid genius or something. He actually takes classes at the university. I think he comes from some important elvish family off to the east. He’s always correcting me, and he never shuts up,” he added gloomily.

    “Well, you are wrong a lot,” said a girl’s voice from the same doorway. The speaker was a grinning teenage girl with short burgundy hair and bright blue eyes. “Hi, Tim. This your friend Liam?”

    “Yes, yes he is. Are you going to make yourself useful, or stand around making fun of me?”

    The girl winked at Liam. “Can’t I do both at the same time?” She stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Liam. I’m Dess, though I suppose Tim’s told you all about me.”

    Liam shook her hand appreciatively. “Not at all. He left out how pretty you are.” Tim rolled his eyes at this, but didn’t comment.

    Dess’s cheeks colored a bit, but she did not seem too impressed. “And who’s this?” she asked, as though she had just spotted Mei. “Your little sister? She’s so cute.”

    “That’s my cousin Mei,” Liam said quickly, before Mei had a chance to get her customary introduction in. To his annoyance, she contrived to look angelic instead.

    “Is she really? She’s so darling. And such gorgeous hair!” Dess crouched rather unnecessarily, and held out a hand to Mei, which the younger girl ignored. “I just love kids,” she continued, as if Mei was not present. “I get along really well with Sylok. Anyway, it’s nice meeting you. Let’s see, you’ve seen Sylok already, so that leaves Lizzy, oh! And Tara, you’ll want to meet her, of course.” She grabbed Liam’s hand and dragged him inside. Liam chuckled a bit when he saw the look on Tim’s face.

    The inside of the boarding house was rather dark, and, after the long train ride and hauling the bags, blessedly cool. Liam shook hands with a plump middle-aged woman who he assumed was the landlady. “Sorry we don’t have more room,” she said, sounding decidedly distracted. “You can share with Tim and Sylok, and your sister can room with Dess and Tara.”

    Liam nodded, grateful for a place to finally dump his armload of bags. The rooms themselves were a little cramped, with two plain bunk beds in each. It was very white and clean looking, but sparse. Mei seemed quite happy to sit down on her bed, and Liam noticed with some surprise that she seemed perhaps more saddened than cross. He thought about saying something, but it did not seem like a wise idea.

    The boys’ room was much the same, though slightly less orderly. Liam suspected the very neat bed was Sylok’s; the very untidy one thus went to Tim. He had started to relax a bit, when the door banged open. It was Dess again, accompanied by an older girl this time. She was quite tall, nearly Tim’s height, and a long black plait snaked down her back. Liam supposed she was not bad-looking, but he did not care for her expression. She seemed to be utterly summing him up.

    “This is Tara,” explained Dess, smiling sweetly. “She works for Lizzy, but she’s training to be a warrior, just like you. Tara, this is Illiam Duánkirke. He’s a friend of Tim’s.”

    “Elf, huh?” asked Tara. Her tone suggested smirking. “And a schoolboy, too. One of those fancy private academy, I’ll bet.”

    “Yeah,” replied Liam a little snappishly. “I go to Tiberius.”

    To his surprise, she actually looked a bit impressed. “Not bad. I hear you actually fight sometimes there.” She grinned, and stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Illiam.”

    Liam shook her hand, noting her surprisingly strong grip. “Just Liam works. And it’s nice meeting you, too.”

    “Well, we’ll love you and leave you, then. I’ve got a suspicion Dess has been pestering you long enough today, and you’ll want to get settled. Besides, I’ve probably got some dishes to wash.”

    After the girls had left, Liam flopped down on his bed, sighing a bit. It seemed in his opinion that there were far too many extremely strong personalities here for a single boarding house. It was likely to be a very long summer indeed.
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    I LOVE it! I lost track of time and just carried on reading, unaware of the real world, thinking only of the story. I felt like I was actually there. It wasn't too description heavy, but there was enough to picture it perfectly. It's a great storyline as well. I like how it relates to the D&D world, and how it looks to children. I found it very funny, and enjoyed reading it very much. An average teenager novel stuck into a D&D context is something I once did, but I couldn't make one fit with another, and my writing failed, but your's seemed like a genre of it's own, they fit so perfectly.
    Looking forward to Chapter 2! (And Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, etc!)
    And here's some tips about titling which apply to everyone:
    Mostly, the best titles come when you have finished the story. You just read it through, and something just pops up. That has happened in almost every story I have ever written, and mostly the title I think of at the end is better than what I thought of at the beginning. Often, you have a name that fits perfectly to the first few chapters, but as the story twists and turns you find it doesn't really work. Also, even if it is the most awesome title ever, if it deosn't fit with the mood of your story, you will have to change it. If you have a clever, funny, playful, pun in your title, then well done, it's a great title. But I made the mistake once of giving a name like that to a tragedy. Needless to say, even though it was a good title I had to change it, as it did not fit. A title for the mood is more important that a title for the plot, although, of course, you do need a mixture.

    Last edited by Zolkabro; 2010-04-12 at 11:03 AM.

  17. - Top - End - #137
    Ogre in the Playground
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    All right, I'll throw out a critique.

    Critique: Untitled story by Tira-Chan

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    I like the humor of this story, and I think it has potential. You seem to be setting up a fun "strangers living together" Real World scenario in a fantasy world, which I think can work.

    However, I think it needs a fairly serious proofreading: the missteps and contradictions are frequent enough that it's sometimes hard to follow. For instance, the tense isn't consistent (present tense was used early in the story), and this contributes to the order of events being unclear. For another, Mei is sometimes referred to as Liam's cousin, and sometimes as his sister. There are also some misspellings ("does" instead of "dozed"). And I've noticed that the pronouns aren't always clear. I don't always know who you're talking about and have to stop and think about it.

    I'm also uncertain about starting the story with a list. While the list itself has humorous qualities, it doesn't seem entirely logical, as its not clear how the points are related, or what the list actually is, aside from "situations Liam gets into." It's also unnecessary. If Liam gets into interesting situations, it's much more fun to show him getting into one, than it is to talk about the sorts of situations he gets into.


    Okay, another one...

    Critique: Alone? by The Fiery Tower

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    Okay, this story has been up for over three months, so it's a bit late to be critiquing, but I read it before I realized how old it is.

    My first impression was that the formatting was problematic. I'm assuming that's because it was cut and pasted from Word, so I'll just assume it looks good there and move on.

    My second impression was that the main character needed a name. His lack of one seems to telegraph that we shouldn't get too attached to him--he's not important, and will probably be dying soon.

    Finally, it seems to me that the story is in the wrong order. There are things you need to say up front: why he's in the woods, the rumors about monsters, etc. These should be out there before the monster shows up. Otherwise, they feel tacked on.

    Now, I'm a big fan of gradually revealing things, and I like that you do that. It's just the how of it I think can be better. I suggest starting with him lost. That was a smart idea. Give him a name, some character. Then reveal the stories of monsters leading to the bet that ends up with him in the woods. And then, concurrent of him becoming nervous, start to reveal what the rumors say. Build on that, with his rationalization and fears at war, before the reveal.

    Of course, where you go from there depends on the nature of the story. If it ends there, you need a strong payoff, an actual reveal of the monster. If it's the prologue of a longer story, then you can skip to the aftermath without revealing what did it.
    Last edited by DSCrankshaw; 2010-04-13 at 01:06 AM.

  18. - Top - End - #138
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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    Thumbs up Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    Quote Originally Posted by DSCrankshaw View Post
    All right, I'll throw out a critique.

    Critique: Untitled story by Tira-Chan

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    ...
    I'm also uncertain about starting the story with a list. While the list itself has humorous qualities, it doesn't seem entirely logical, as its not clear how the points are related, or what the list actually is, aside from "situations Liam gets into." It's also unnecessary. If Liam gets into interesting situations, it's much more fun to show him getting into one, than it is to talk about the sorts of situations he gets into.
    I disgaree. I liked that way of starting the story. It set the humorous tone.

    EDIT: Does critisicing a critique count as a critique?
    Last edited by Zolkabro; 2010-04-13 at 01:01 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #139
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zolkabro View Post
    I disgaree. I liked that way of starting the story. It set the humorous tone.

    EDIT: Does critisicing a critique count as a critique?
    Heh, I don't think so. Besides, having the critics disagree about your story helps a lot in making it better. It's sometimes easy to be misled and think that something one person dislikes is terrible, or that something one person likes is perfect. When they disagree, it's easier to weigh their critiques on their merits.

    Anyway, on to a third critique...

    Critique: Heartstone by Alarra

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    This one was a very strong story. I was impressed. I figure you could submit it as-is. But, there's always room for improvement, so here's a few things I noticed...

    It's not that important, but I don't think you actually named your character until pretty late in the story. In fact, I wasn't certain whether he was male or female at first. I think you should have been clearer on who he was at the outset.

    Secondly, the story was largely told in flashback form. That's always somewhat difficult to handle, and you need to be careful to keep your timing clear. There were a few points in the story where I wasn't clear when things were happening, in the past or the present.

    Thirdly, there were two scenes that didn't ring true: when Ken woke up after two weeks to find Shala at his side. That seems just a little too convenient. She could've been at his side for a lot of the time, but I think she still would've needed to be lucky to be there when he finally woke up, so it feels contrived. The other is having Sid there at the end. How'd he get in without Ken realizing it? It seems like he's there purely to give some resolution to the love triangle, but I'm not sure it's necessary.

    Finally, while the ending is moving, it's a trifle predictable. I saw it coming well before we got there. I'm not sure there's too much you can do about that while still keeping the central thread of the story.


    And that's three.

  20. - Top - End - #140
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Teutonic Knight's Avatar

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    Critique of Lord Raziere - The Stories of Trizap: Neomind

    You don't mind if I play kind of a Devil's Advocate, do you? If not, please ignore this critique.

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    To begin, I agree with Death Dragon. You need to fix the grammar and structure of your story to make it more readable. Most likely you copied it directly off of another source, like Word or something, and forget to check how it looked (that's what the Preview Post button is for). That would account for the sentences beginning on the left and ending halfway down the next line.

    Second, at the beginning, the high and the sub of subluminal seem to counteract each other, to me. Then, you begin writing as if you were talking to your readers. That's fine until you get to Trizap rubbing his eyes, and you seem to ask the audience, who have just met Trizap, how much sleep he had. It would be better to make it like Trizap is thinking this: "Trizap was rubbing his eyes when a thought crossed his mind. 'How much sleep did I get these past three weeks?'"

    Death Dragon already mentioned the tenses and the dialogue.

    Also the short flashback to three weeks earlier is unneeded. It breaks the flow of the paragraphs before and after it with something that has little connection to what was presently happening. You didn't need to show that the entering was different; you already had Trizap mention it. We as readers merely need to take your word for it; it's your story. Or what you could do is have Trizap briefly explain what the entering was like. For example: "'Huh.' Trizap commented. 'That was different from when we entered Warp Space. I remember a crushing force on my chest and lots of turbulence.'"

    Toward the end, you repeated: "supported by numerous similarly large half-arches which were built to support each other, support the Skystabbers." You need to reword this; too many supports. Maybe simply: "It looked like a shining metropolis of towering massive Skystabbers supported by numerous similarly large half-arches."

    Otherwise, you have done a good job establishing your world. Be careful with all the sci-fi terms as readers might forget what all the words are. You could have hinted at what was to come, like it they going to meet someone they do not know, you could say something like, "I wonder what this *insert character name* looks like? He told us to meet his in the *insert name of an establishment*, so I assume he's (wealthy, poor, etc.)

    Also a word of caution from my English teacher, avoid the word plethora in anything you write.
    Currently playing a "blind" (Miraluka) sniper in a Star Wars SAGA Edition RP

  21. - Top - End - #141
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    thanks, I'll try and do better.

  22. - Top - End - #142
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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    Well, now that I've done three critiques, I suppose I ought to post something to be critiqued. Here's something I'm currently working on. It's steampunkish, early industrial age with magic. I'm considering cutting the first part of it completely, and starting with the second part, but I'd appreciate others' opinions.

    Untitled Steampunkish Story (2,247 words long)
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    Morgan knocked on the door and waited. Rivulets of water continued to drip from his hat and onto his overcoat, despite the shelter of the house’s porch keeping him out of the direct rain. The door was opened by a Green servant within moments. Like many older Greens, he had his head shaved, and wore a pointed gray beard.

    The servant gave Morgan a toothy smile and said, “Good evening, sir. Please come in.” He moved aside and Morgan stepped past him, pulling his invitation from an inner pocket of his overcoat. The servant accepted the cream envelope with hands the shade of summer grass and glanced at the letter inside. “Ah, Master Dunworth, we’ve been expecting you. May I take your coat and hat?”

    Morgan handed them over, and the servant led him to the study. It was a short trip, but it was enough to give Morgan an appreciation for how wealthy Professor Garson was. He recognized original paintings by the very best of the Aurentian artists, tapestries from the East, and a small bust that had to be Krozain. He doubted there was a finer collection anywhere in the North. And, of course, the house had all the amenities of modern technology. Morgan was one of the few who could see the networks delivering aether to every corner of the house, supplying heat and light and other conveniences. It must have cost a fortune to draw this much aether from the Wellsprings supplying Delcor.

    When he arrived in the study, he found that it was already packed with the most prominent men and women of the city. Professor Garson, Ph.N., stood by a lectern in front of a table covered by a lumpy white cloth. Shelves filled with books lined the walls, and leather upholstered chairs filled the floor. Emory Garson clearly had Green blood, with the pale green skin and slight point to the ears which that entailed. Ellen, his wife, stood at his side, her silvery hair indicating a more exotic ancestry. Talking with them both was the stout mayor and his daughter. Other groups scattered about the room included several other professors from the university, clergy from both branches of the church, newspapermen, and some of the wealthier merchants. There were twenty people packed into the study, which was able to accommodate them all on account of being as large as Morgan’s apartment. He seemed to be the only representative of the College of Masters, however.

    Professor Garson noticed him shortly after he arrived, and crossed the room to meet him. “Master Dunworth! It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

    “The pleasure’s all mine,” Morgan said politely. “I’ve greatly enjoyed our correspondence.”

    “So have I, though I feel I took more than I gave with my endless questions,” he said.

    “Not at all. Your questions about aetheric technology were some of the sharpest I’ve ever addressed. If only my students were as interested in the subject matter. You’ve spurred me to rethink some of my long-held opinions.”

    “I’m glad you found my questions useful. Your answers have greatly helped me in my research. I think you’ll find the fruits I share today most enlightening. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to give my presentation.”

    Morgan found a seat in one of the mismatched chairs scattered through the study as Professor Garson made his way to the front. He rapped on the lectern, and the other guests began to find their seats. A few had glasses in hand, and Morgan regretted that he had not had time to find a drink first. A brandy would have warmed him up nicely after the rain.

    Professor Garson smiled at his audience. “Magic,” he began, and there was an instant murmur in the audience. He smoothly continued, “It’s a word that is not often used anymore, not since the various magical traditions came together and pooled their knowledge over five centuries ago. Many of us have a little ability to manipulate the aether, the substance that powers what we once called magic.” He held out his hand and a small flame appeared in it. The audience applauded politely.

    “A parlor trick,” Garson said. “In ancient times, I probably would have been a warlock, frightening children and throwing fire at the evil humans”—he smiled, and the audience chuckled at the joke—“but now those talents are less useful than learned study. Master Dunworth here is one of the few for which aether is not a parlor trick. The College of the Masters has been able to turn what was once the power of a few into the technology of a civilization. Their aetheric technology can bring us light, heat, transportation, and communication. Our entire civilization is based on their ability to build the networks which run it.”

    With every eye turned toward him, Morgan bowed his head in acknowledgment. Garson continued, “But there are limits to aether. Very few, an estimated one in a thousand, have Master Dunworth’s ability to actually see it. Only those few can build the networks which allow the rest of us to use it. And while the aether is all around us, in apparently infinite supply, it doesn’t do anything unless pressed into motion. Those with talent, even those like myself with just a touch of ability, can stir it to power these networks, but we are not much more numerous than those who can see it, and only a few have the desire to recharge the networks that others make. It is little more than manual labor. No, most of the power to run our networks comes from the Wellsprings, sources from which the aether flows naturally. We tap into those sources and bring the impetus they give the aether to cities like Delcor by building channels, sometimes stretching miles to half a dozen Wellsprings. And still, the city continues to grow, and we cannot supply power to all who want it. So only the rich can afford the conveniences that aether brings.

    “Recently, steam has been touted as a new source of energy. Indeed, we can do a lot by heating water, including keeping our homes warm and driving mechanical devices such as the locomotive, but it lacks the flexibility of aether. What we don’t have is a means to convert steam energy to aether energy. If I could invent that, I’d be a very rich man.

    “What I have invented is something very different. Philosophers have long sought to understand the nature of matter. In recent years we have theorized that all of matter is made up of the same fundamental material, one which had both positive and negative particles. Attempts to show that aether is made up of these particles have failed, despite the fact that our experiments suggest that they have many of the same properties. But this failure has led me to consider a different approach. Can we use these particles the same way that we use aether? If so, how can we impel them? It took years of work, but I believe that I have finally succeeded.”

    With a flourish, Professor Garson swept the cloth from the table. Beneath was an odd device, a cylinder with a crank on the top. Metal wires ran from the cylinder to a Y shape with a small filament between its two arms. “Master Dunworth,” Garson said, “could you please confirm that there is no network of aether connected to this device?”

    Morgan, who was staring at the device with wide-eyed fascination, said, “I’d be glad to.” He adjusted his sight to aethervision. While there were networks all over the room, none of them touched the device. “There’s no aetheric network touching it.”

    “Excellent. Now watch carefully, and tell me whether I use any aether.”

    “Of course,” Morgan said.

    Professor Garson began to turn the crank, faster and faster, and as he did so, the filament began to give off a yellow light. “Well?” Garson asked.

    “That’s not done with aether,” Morgan confirmed.

    The audience broke into applause as Garson sped up the crank and the filament grew brighter until, with a pop and a puff of smoke, it suddenly went dark. Garson let the crank come to a stop. “As you can see, I’ve yet to find a filament that can stand up to this source of power for very long. I believe I will eventually, though. In the meantime, we have something truly unique: a source of energy that can do what aether does and can be powered by something as simple as a hand crank. It should be obvious that this could just as easily be a waterwheel or a steam engine. Any source of mechanical energy can be converted to this new energy, and that means that it will allow us to do what aether can’t: it can grow with our power needs.”

    This time the applause was exuberant. Morgan was a great deal less excited than his neighbors. Professor Garson wanted to replace aether as the energy source that civilization ran on. What would become of the College of Masters if that happened? Morgan had a sudden vision of himself begging on a street lit by the yellow glow of dozens of filaments.

    “Any questions?” Garson was saying.

    “How does this work?” one of the university professors was quick to ask. “What is the device with the crank?”

    “Ah, a very good question, but one which will have to wait. I’ll be sending a monograph to The Natural Chronicles within the next few days which will explain the principles behind the device. I wanted to wait until after this demonstration to do so, but I don’t want to give away too much information and allow someone else to publish first. It’s not that I don’t trust you ladies and gentlemen.” He gave a quick smile. “But I fully expect word of this demonstration to appear in the newspapers tomorrow, and it would be unwise to expect reporters to keep secrets.” The audience chuckled, even the editor of The Morning Brief.

    The other questions covered less interesting ground, from Garson’s inspiration to his education, to his as-yet undecided name for his invention. He demurred speculating on how long it would take for his new energy source to overtake aetheric technology, saying only that it may be decades before it was in widespread use. Eventually, the questions petered out and the audience began to take its leave. Garson drew Morgan aside as the others filed out.

    “I hope you understand that I mean no disrespect to you or your profession, Master Dunworth,” the professor said.

    “Of course not. You simply want to replace us,” Morgan replied.

    Garson blinked at his tone. “Surely you’re not upset.”

    “Why wouldn’t I be? We’ve been corresponding for months, but you gave me no warning about what you were going to reveal here.”

    “But I explained… the need for secrecy…”

    “That may be, but it doesn’t feel any less like betrayal for it.”

    “For what it’s worth, I am sorry. I realize that you might not be inclined to cooperate now, but I was hoping that you could write a statement attesting that my device does not use aether.”

    “Sign my own discharge papers, you mean?”

    “Oh surely it’s not that extreme,” he began, but stopped and took a good look at Morgan. “You won’t deny what you saw here, will you?”

    Morgan snorted. “No. Believe it or not, I still have my honor. I’ll send you my statement tomorrow.” With that, Morgan left.

    #

    Morgan was awakened by what felt like a mallet pounding on his head. He shifted and toppled the glass of brandy sitting by where his head lay, pressed against a sheet of paper containing his half-finished statement attesting to the wonderful invention that was going to destroy his life’s work. The amber liquid quickly found the statement and began to soak into it, blurring ink already smeared by his cheek. Morgan groaned because he lacked the energy to curse and tried to rescue the statement. The pounding came again. This time he could tell it was coming from someone banging on the door to his apartment. He cursed and abandoned the statement. It wasn’t as if he had written anything coherent or civil last night.

    Morgan rose unsteadily to his feet and staggered to the door. He was still wearing his good suit, though it was wrinkled and stained from having been slept in. Blinking blearily into the mirror beside the door, he ran a hand through his wild hair and tried to scrub the worst of the ink from his cheek. He didn’t exactly look respectable, but in a good light he might pass for civilized. He jerked open the door in the middle of the third set of pounds.

    A uniformed Vigilance officer stood at the door, one first raised, the other hand near a revolver. It was a woman, which was uncommon but not unheard of. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face, and she was wearing a long skirt the same color as the uniform shirt. He glared at her while she recovered from her surprise and said, “Are you Master Morgan Dunworth?”

    “Yes I am,” he said. “Can I help you, officer?”

    “I’m Officer Gilli Marlin. I’ve been sent to bring you to the office to answer some questions.”

    “Questions about what?” Morgan asked, as politely as his headache and sudden anxiety allowed.

    “About Professor Emory Garson’s death.”
    Last edited by DSCrankshaw; 2010-04-14 at 12:45 AM.

  23. - Top - End - #143
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    Ooh, this looks like fun!

    Critique: Untitled Steampunk Story by DSCrankshaw

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    First, just gotta say that I love steampunk! There's not enough of it out there.

    You've constructed a fascinating world here. It's clear that you've thought a lot about the background (different races like the Greens, history such as the magical traditions coming together five centuries ago, etc.). The world seems fascinating, and I do love me a good murder mystery -- I'd like to read more, enough so that if I came across this in a bookstore I'd probably buy it.

    In regards to your specific question: I think that the beginning is very interesting. It's a good introduction to the way the world works and the various factors (aether vs. steam, aether vs. the new technology which I'm assuming is electricity, limited resources, the College of Masters, etc.) which are likely to have an effect on the plot.

    That said, I think you're probably right that it would be better to start with the second part. The opening line is stronger (some nice mallet imagery, as opposed to the rather bland door knocking that occurs in the beginning of the first half). More importantly, I was able to guess that Garson would be murdered way back in the first section (when they're talking after the presentation). This made the last line have less weight than it might have otherwise.

    There may be a way for you to work in the first bit as a flashback (that could be cool). Additionally, if you do choose to open with the second part, I would make it longer. If you were to cut the first part, but leave the second as is, that would also take away the impact of the last line because the reader doesn't know anything about Garson, so why would they care that he's dead? Include some reference to Garson while Morgan is still waking up and looking at his half written statement -- that Morgan had been at his house last night for some sort of presentation (no need to specify what yet), that the subject of the presentation is "the wonderful invention that was going to destroy his life’s work" (great line, that), that they had been corresponding for months, maybe even include some snatches of dialogue (either from Garson's presentation or from their conversation afterward, or even both). Those are just suggestions, obviously, but I would definitely add in a little more detail (assuming that you do cut the first bit).

    And some minor nitpicky points (my specialty ):

    "Professor Garson noticed him shortly after he arrived, and crossed the room to meet him." No comma needed. ("Crossed the room to meet him" is not a complete clause -- it could not stand as a sentence by itself. Thus, no comma.)

    "...I feel I took more than I gave with my endless questions..." is a little awkward. Try making it less passive (e.g. "I feel like my endless questions resulted in me taking more than I gave") or rewording the whole thing (e.g. "I feel like I ended up taking more than giving, what with all my endless questions.")

    I obviously haven't read enough to have a very good understanding of your characterization, but you might think about reconsidering this part: "A few had glasses in hand, and Morgan regretted that he had not had time to find a drink first. A brandy would have warmed him up nicely after the rain." It's a sign of a bad host that Prof. Garson didn't offer Morgan a drink (even if only by summoning over a servant while they were talking). If I were Morgan, I'd be a little miffed at my host, not just disappointed that I hadn't though to grab something for myself.

    "Professor Garson wanted to replace aether as the energy source that civilization ran on." I'm old fashioned, but I always cringe when I see a preposition at the end of a sentence. Plenty of people disregard that rule, so it's up to you, but I would phrase it as, "Professor Garson wanted to replace aether as the energy source upon which civilization ran."

    "He shifted and toppled the glass of brandy sitting by where his head lay..." Awkward. "He shifted and toppled the glass of brandy sitting by his head" works just fine.

    "He was still wearing his good suit, though it was wrinkled and stained from having been slept in." Preposition at the end of the sentence again.

    "He didn’t exactly look respectable, but in a good light he might pass for civilized." I found this a little confusing. Do you mean "poor lighting" instead of a "good light"? If the light is good (i.e. bright) it would be harder to hide the fact that he's all sleep rumpled.

    Typo: "A uniformed Vigilance officer stood at the door, one first raised..." I do believe you mean "fist."

    Hope that helps!

  24. - Top - End - #144
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    @Danne
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    Thanks for the input. I like the beginning, to be honest, but I've learned that I usually start off my stories too slow, especially for submissions to professional markets. If the editor loses interest, he'll stop reading, so you've got to hook him quick. I've pretty much adopted a policy of cutting the beginning of each story I write. I still write it in the way that seems most natural, as it helps me to figure out the setting and characters, but I cut enough so that I can start at the good part.

    My desire to submit this story professionally is also the reason I've only posted what I intend to cut + a couple of paragraphs. Posting it in a public forum is enough for it to be considered "previously published," and that limits where I can submit it.

    As for the technical parts of your review, I'll admit I'm not religious about prepositions (I'm with Churchill. When a speechwriter corrected one in a speech of his, he supposedly sent back a note saying: "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put."). That said, you found a lot of examples, and I think I need to be more careful.

    Again, thanks for your review!


    EDIT: Realized I said dangling participle when I meant preposition stranding--bah, English terminology.
    Last edited by DSCrankshaw; 2010-04-16 at 12:58 PM.

  25. - Top - End - #145
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    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    Quote Originally Posted by DSCrankshaw View Post
    As for the technical parts of your review, I'll admit I'm not religious about dangling participles (I'm with Churchill. When a speechwriter corrected one in a speech of his, he supposedly sent back a note saying: "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put."). That said, you found a lot of examples, and I think I need to be more careful.
    The "rule" against participles at the ends of sentences comes from pedants applying a rule from Latin to English without realising how many phrases sound silly if you do so (Churchill's example is a good'un). There isn't actually a real grammar rule against ending a sentence with a preposition in English. Consider: "What for?", it makes sense, and you know that it's an inquiry about the reasoning behind something. "For what?" doesn't have the same connotations, so to rewrite "What for?" without a preposition at the end would give you something like "For what reason did he do that?" which is just excessive and formal.

    Happy funtimes!
    Last edited by Dogmantra; 2010-04-16 at 11:33 AM.
    BANG → !
    OH LOOK AT HER/.../YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN/YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN/YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN MEAN/RICHARDS

  26. - Top - End - #146
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    Quote Originally Posted by DSCrankshaw View Post
    @Danne
    Thanks for the input.
    You are very welcome.

    My desire to submit this story professionally is also the reason I've only posted what I intend to cut + a couple of paragraphs. Posting it in a public forum is enough for it to be considered "previously published," and that limits where I can submit it.
    Absolutely right. Posting story excerpts for critique can be useful, but you've got to be careful about posting too much. (And as I said, I'd be interested in buying it if I saw it in a bookstore.)

    As for the technical parts of your review ... That said, you found a lot of examples, and I think I need to be more careful.
    Well hey, don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone makes typos and leaves misplaced commas, even published authors. That's why editors were invented. Your writing was solid and you clearly know what you're doing. As a friend of mine once said to me, "With the stories that hit me as well-written, I can't help myself from mentioning this and that, touching up a line here and there…getting nitpicky. At the same time, I have personal preferences other people don't, so naturally, agree with me except where you don't."

    And good luck!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogmantra View Post
    The "rule" against participles at the ends of sentences comes from pedants applying a rule from Latin to English without realising how many phrases sound silly if you do so (Churchill's example is a good'un). There isn't actually a real grammar rule against ending a sentence with a preposition in English. Consider: "What for?", it makes sense, and you know that it's an inquiry about the reasoning behind something. "For what?" doesn't have the same connotations, so to rewrite "What for?" without a preposition at the end would give you something like "For what reason did he do that?" which is just excessive and formal.

    Happy funtimes!
    I'll be the first to admit that I'm a huge grammar pedant (also old fashioned about most of my rules).

    Though in my defense, it's all my high school English teachers' fault. They used to do things like dock me ten points for ending sentences with prepositions. Absolutely nuts, I tell you. Anyway, the end result is that it makes my teeth hurt to see certain rules broken, but I understand that I'm in the minority there. I'll point them out, but don't expect most people to change them.

    In regard to your specific example, "What for?" is generally something that would only pop up in dialogue, for which the rules are slightly different (because people never speak with perfect grammar, so it's okay to break the rules) but you're absolutely right that there are instances even in formal text where following the preposition rule guideline just makes the sentence awkward.

  27. - Top - End - #147
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    Thank you for all the reviews!

    Quote Originally Posted by Death Dragon View Post
    Critique of Untitled Story by Tira-chan

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    So far, I like this story. It looks like it has the potential to develop into something interesting.

    I definitely like the opening. It's a pretty strong opening and a good indication of what the rest of the story will be like. It introduces Liam very well, giving the readers a good idea of what he's like, and also sets a fairly light-hearted tone for the story.

    I also like the way the story is written. Most of it flows pretty well, and I like the little side-jokes (the Wilderness Survival Class/First Aid line made me laugh).

    In some parts, however, it needs some tightening up. The paragraph describing Mei, in particular, could use some work, especially the first half. For example, the line "born the daughter of the Faerie Queen and a dark elf, their sworn enemies." Who is the 'they'? Are the Faeries and the dark elves sworn enemies? And I though Liam was an elven prince, so why is the faerie/dark elf related to him? Unless dark elves aren't a separate species from regular elves, in which case you may want to make that clear. Besides clarification, the entire paragraph just needs some streamlining.

    So overall, I do like the story, and I'd be interested in seeing how it turns out. There's just a few things that need some tweaking, I think.
    I'm glad you like it, but yeah, I did have a bit of trouble describing Mei, and changed T'fiyana's title to "Queen of the Elven Court." Essentially, Mei is half-drow elf, half- high elf, but I didn't know if I could refer to her as part drow, since it isn't a D&D novel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zolkabro
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    I LOVE it! I lost track of time and just carried on reading, unaware of the real world, thinking only of the story. I felt like I was actually there. It wasn't too description heavy, but there was enough to picture it perfectly. It's a great storyline as well. I like how it relates to the D&D world, and how it looks to children. I found it very funny, and enjoyed reading it very much. An average teenager novel stuck into a D&D context is something I once did, but I couldn't make one fit with another, and my writing failed, but your's seemed like a genre of it's own, they fit so perfectly.
    Looking forward to Chapter 2! (And Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, etc!)
    And here's some tips about titling which apply to everyone:
    Mostly, the best titles come when you have finished the story. You just read it through, and something just pops up. That has happened in almost every story I have ever written, and mostly the title I think of at the end is better than what I thought of at the beginning. Often, you have a name that fits perfectly to the first few chapters, but as the story twists and turns you find it doesn't really work. Also, even if it is the most awesome title ever, if it deosn't fit with the mood of your story, you will have to change it. If you have a clever, funny, playful, pun in your title, then well done, it's a great title. But I made the mistake once of giving a name like that to a tragedy. Needless to say, even though it was a good title I had to change it, as it did not fit. A title for the mood is more important that a title for the plot, although, of course, you do need a mixture.
    Wow, thanks! I'm glad you liked it! Yeah, like I said, I suck at titles, and it would probably be better to wait to title it until I've at least got the whole thing plotted. It just makes it hard to save it on Word.

    Quote Originally Posted by DSCrankshaw
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    I like the humor of this story, and I think it has potential. You seem to be setting up a fun "strangers living together" Real World scenario in a fantasy world, which I think can work.

    However, I think it needs a fairly serious proofreading: the missteps and contradictions are frequent enough that it's sometimes hard to follow. For instance, the tense isn't consistent (present tense was used early in the story), and this contributes to the order of events being unclear. For another, Mei is sometimes referred to as Liam's cousin, and sometimes as his sister. There are also some misspellings ("does" instead of "dozed"). And I've noticed that the pronouns aren't always clear. I don't always know who you're talking about and have to stop and think about it.

    I'm also uncertain about starting the story with a list. While the list itself has humorous qualities, it doesn't seem entirely logical, as its not clear how the points are related, or what the list actually is, aside from "situations Liam gets into." It's also unnecessary. If Liam gets into interesting situations, it's much more fun to show him getting into one, than it is to talk about the sorts of situations he gets into.
    Well, thanks for finding some places that need some work. Misspellings like that are hard for me to find on my own, which is the point of having someone else read it. I did fix the one mistaken reference to Mei as his sister; I was jumping around the story a bit to get it ready to post, and I think I mixed up Tim and Liam. When Dess refers to Mei as Liam's sister, that's an intentional mistake (on my part, not Dess's). I can't find where I mixed up the tenses, if you could point to a specific passage?


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  28. - Top - End - #148
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danne View Post
    In regard to your specific example, "What for?" is generally something that would only pop up in dialogue, for which the rules are slightly different (because people never speak with perfect grammar, so it's okay to break the rules) but you're absolutely right that there are instances even in formal text where following the preposition rule guideline just makes the sentence awkward.
    That was a really bad example in retrospect.
    BANG → !
    OH LOOK AT HER/.../YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN/YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN/YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN MEAN/RICHARDS

  29. - Top - End - #149
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tira-chan View Post
    Well, thanks for finding some places that need some work. Misspellings like that are hard for me to find on my own, which is the point of having someone else read it. I did fix the one mistaken reference to Mei as his sister; I was jumping around the story a bit to get it ready to post, and I think I mixed up Tim and Liam. When Dess refers to Mei as Liam's sister, that's an intentional mistake (on my part, not Dess's). I can't find where I mixed up the tenses, if you could point to a specific passage?
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    Well, one example of the tense change is fairly early, and pretty minor: "In actuality, he just has very odd luck." This is present tense, and should be past. I don't remember any other specific instances, but I seem to remember getting confused with instances of imperfect and past perfect tenses. This is often difficult, and I recommend being extra careful when using past perfect.

    As for the referring to Mei as his sister, I was actually thinking about this line: "Liam knew he would have to get used to it, but would it be too much for him to ask for to just get a break? Not that it was likely to happen any time soon, what with his sister hanging around."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSCrankshaw View Post
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    Well, one example of the tense change is fairly early, and pretty minor: "In actuality, he just has very odd luck." This is present tense, and should be past. I don't remember any other specific instances, but I seem to remember getting confused with instances of imperfect and past perfect tenses. This is often difficult, and I recommend being extra careful when using past perfect.

    As for the referring to Mei as his sister, I was actually thinking about this line: "Liam knew he would have to get used to it, but would it be too much for him to ask for to just get a break? Not that it was likely to happen any time soon, what with his sister hanging around."
    Okay, thanks! I'll be sure to fix that.


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