Author Topic: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...  (Read 31170 times)

C.C.Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #45 on: March 25, 2007, 10:02:25 am »
Hi Joshua, thanks for reading!


I read the The Call and the revamped Mind Over Matter

here are my concerns:

It is difficult to identify a protagonist. The pieces are written in an objective style with great emphasis on character actions and location description, but most of this is irrelevant to either the plot or to giving insights into the characters' motives.

Yeah, I have been heavily criticised for using too much POV work, and so I have the options of either writing objectively or writing from a characters point of view.  As The Call is about an event, rather than a character, i chose objectively.  If people critise you if you do one or the other, you just gotta choose one and stick with it!

The rest seems overstated and therefore loses pace. Most of the description seems unnecessary

Really?  Could you give examples, please?  I honestly thought I had pruned pretty much all the unnecessary description, and I thought the pace was okay.  I realise it's rude to ask, but could you elaborate at all?


To pull this off your reader has to get inside a character and begin to share their emotions. That character has to guide (and mislead) them through the story.
Strip away the fantasy elements and what have your characters got? Think of Conan the Barbarian- a child seeking revenge on the man who killed his mother. Drizzt Do'Urden- at odds with the cruelty of his own culture seeks friendship amongst people who fear him. Frodo Baggins- a kid from the suburbs who reluctantly tries to rid the world of a menace before it destroys the people he loves.

I haven't read any Conan (is it good? I was tempted to pick up a massive volume, free incidentally, but chose The Dark Tower instead), but I have seen Conan the Destroyer.  I'm guessing that isn't a good point of reference for what you are saying, though!

I do see your point through, but I don't really want to give that much away in two pages.  Rather than giving the reader all the answers, I would rather leave them with a few questions.  Is this not being translated well, or am I just doing a bad job of it?


It doesn't seem to have a uniqueness. Looking at the creature retinue- beastmen, satyrs, minotaurs, etc. and the character retinue- thieves, thanes, witches, mysterious mages and the props- grimoires, glamers, swords, coins called 'coppers' it reads as standard D&D fare.To add into that a few 'thees' and 'thous' and it becomes cliche. Good fantasy fiction, especially high fantasy,  introduces new stuff either by taking traditional ideas and twisting them (Stan Nichol's- Orcs) or inventing imaginative new environs and cultures (RA Salvatore- Menzoberranzan).

I have to be honest, I read Orcs and The Crystal Shard, and I wouldn't put them in the realm of Good Fantasy.  I haven't read anything else of Salvatore's because, frankly, his inability to make me feel the mood put me off completely.

At one point in The Crystal Shard, Wulfgar is fighting 10-foot-tall giants in their caves.  One smashes him in the ribs with a huge club, but Wulfgar "was made of sterner stuff" or something and just takes the blow like it was delivered by a child.  That kind of logical inconsistency dogs the entire book, actually.  Causes without effect, etc.

Orc's is kind of the same, with this warband getting into dozens of fights without a loss, or significant injury.  Then in the final fight, the old guy just gets stabbed in the heart (or wherever) and after that I just yawned my way to the end.  Jup and Haskeer's interactions were good though.

Anyway, to the actual point:  I only used "thee" once, and that was in a quote from someone a long time ago! I suppose the lack of information regarding the cultures within the world is probably responsible for them appearing to all be the same as regular fantasy fair, but honestly I don't really want to needlessly elaborate on them as they aren't a major feature of the story.

I have entered The Call for a competition of competitor vs competitor, and in my bracket I am actually leading.  One judges criticism was that I have made the satyr goat-headed and female.  Apparently there were no female satyrs, and they had human heads.  I haven't bothered pointing out that this is where my version of a satyr differs (as in, they are a race, and would need some way to procreate.  Women were chosen because I don't even want to consider asexual reproduction in goatmen!).

One half expects a stranger who walks into a pub to be greeted with suspicion, what if he was welcomed warmly? Wouldn't that create more tension? Why would they be so friendly? A friend once advised me never to write the first thing that comes into your head. Always think how it could be told differently.
Quote

That is probably very good advice.

I agree with you, but given the situation it would be nonsensical.  To put it in a real-world context:

If a bar that was frequented by the Black Panthers was visited, one night, by a man in a pointy white hood, how would they react?   

Your crowds move in unison as if the onlookers are churned out of a sausage machine.

Do you have any suggestions on how to improve this?  Not necessarily "you should say xxx" but general techniques I can apply in the future.

Thanks for the input, I hope you can tell I haven't just dismissed any of it out of hand!

Cheers

Carl





C.C.Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #46 on: March 25, 2007, 11:48:04 am »
Ack, sorry for the poor formatting, must have forgotten a [/quote] somewhere!

Offline joshua rainbird

  • Whirlpool
  • Barbarian Monarch
  • ****
  • Posts: 589
  • Overlation stimuload...
    • View Profile
    • myspace/joshuarainbird
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #47 on: March 25, 2007, 12:13:32 pm »
Hi Carl

Let me just explain the examples I gave:
Orcs introduced traditional high fantasy characters and put them in a totally new light. Stryke and gang were played as wild-west antiheroes- interesting slant. The plots were the weak point in the trilogy.
Menzoberranzan described beautifully how a race of subterrnanean elves lived in a cruel tyrannical regime: murderous hunting parties; constant threat and intrigue; wierd time-keeping devices; eugenic ideals; and the svirfneblin were even better. The impervious Wulfgar was a restriction imposed by trying to rationalise the bizarre statistics that D&D creates when characters get to higher levels.

POV can be a problem if misused. Readers particularly hate being spoonfed information so here are a few guidelines I created for myself:
Every character has an opinion and no one is always right. The arguments about events in the story can create some good dramatic tension, help the characters to interact and recap on the important stuff;
Don't tell readers what the characters are thinking unless the are all alone or the story is a first person narrative. Body language is essential here. For main characters I set up an unique 'poker-tell' which I then refer to briefly every time he lies (of course the reader can can only guess as to what he's lying about). And remember that even in a first person narrative the character could be in denial of their true feelings (George Orwell: Keep the Aspidistra Flying).
Don't jump around with point of view.
Rewarding reading is about working out the clues and fantasising about the outcome.
 
A brief note about overdescription: How many times are you telling the reader that the thief is crying? You also give actions to the Thane that are already assumed by the dialogue:
?I was in Aselun! I was a Legionnaire of the Black, ready to burn that holy city to the ground!? He boomed, raising his fisted hands aloft. Do you need the added description?

Crowd scenes can be tricky but I think the best way of dealing with this adding brief action/dialogue indicators of crowd attitudes. Why are people are there? Why are they staying? Are they listening? Are they uncomfortable? (e.g X yawns) You probably only need two brief well-timed instances to pull it off. 

'Thees' and 'thous' stick out like sore thumbs. You only need one to raise a criticism.  ;)

Quote
One judges criticism was that I have made the satyr goat-headed and female.  Apparently there were no female satyrs, and they had human heads.  I haven't bothered pointing out that this is where my version of a satyr differs (as in, they are a race, and would need some way to procreate.  Women were chosen because I don't even want to consider asexual reproduction in goatmen!).
From what I understand satyrs were into interspecial reproduction so it's probably best not to explain it.  :D Just for the record I think the judge is being purist.

Good luck with the comp.







If wishes were horses then we'd all be eating steak.
Jayne Cobb, Firefly.

But ... if fishes were courses then we'd all be eating hake ...

C.C.Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #48 on: March 25, 2007, 03:52:51 pm »
The impervious Wulfgar was a restriction imposed by trying to rationalise the bizarre statistics that D&D creates when characters get to higher levels.

Yeah, I know, but the D&D hit point system is purely an abstraction anyway, so that giant's hit on a level 20 barbarian wasn't really a hit at all, it was a glancing blow, dodged or blocked by Wulfgar.  Salvatore's bit really grated on me as being a wasted sentence!

POV can be a problem if misused. Readers particularly hate being spoonfed information so here are a few guidelines I created for myself:
Every character has an opinion and no one is always right. The arguments about events in the story can create some good dramatic tension, help the characters to interact and recap on the important stuff;
Don't tell readers what the characters are thinking unless the are all alone or the story is a first person narrative. Body language is essential here. For main characters I set up an unique 'poker-tell' which I then refer to briefly every time he lies (of course the reader can can only guess as to what he's lying about). And remember that even in a first person narrative the character could be in denial of their true feelings (George Orwell: Keep the Aspidistra Flying).
Don't jump around with point of view.
Rewarding reading is about working out the clues and fantasising about the outcome.

Very interesting.  I also enjoy having characters arguing points that may or may not be true - the point is the character does.

Much food for thought here, which is excellent as I am hungry.  ;D
 
A brief note about overdescription: How many times are you telling the reader that the thief is crying?

Er I had a quick look, and only once ("The thief covered his face with his hands and wept unashamedly." and a reference to him having bleary eyes).  However, this means that part reads like I am repeatedly telling the reader the thief is crying, and so should probably be revised anyway.  I'll have a look at get back to you!


You also give actions to the Thane that are already assumed by the dialogue:
?I was in Aselun! I was a Legionnaire of the Black, ready to burn that holy city to the ground!? He boomed, raising his fisted hands aloft. Do you need the added description?

Evidently not!  I added that as an extra after revision, because frankly I wasn't confident enough that the preachers mannerisms would be translated well enough through his speech. 

Crowd scenes can be tricky but I think the best way of dealing with this adding brief action/dialogue indicators of crowd attitudes. Why are people are there? Why are they staying? Are they listening? Are they uncomfortable? (e.g X yawns) You probably only need two brief well-timed instances to pull it off. 

Good call.  I take it you are referring to the guys in Mind over Matter (as this would not be the first time someone has suggested this point for that story)?  The thing is, how do you translate that well to a mixed crowd of double-hard bastards?

'Thees' and 'thous' stick out like sore thumbs. You only need one to raise a criticism.  ;)

But it was justified!  ;)  I don't like stories that use them in what is supposed to be everyday speech.  True, they may have talked like that back then, but we don't now.  The "thee" was there to emphasise the fact the alchemist was using a phrase/expression/quote from a long time ago.

From what I understand satyrs were into interspecial reproduction so it's probably best not to explain it.  :D Just for the record I think the judge is being purist.

Good luck with the comp.

Yeah, he said it was just a minor nit-pick and still voted for me, so no problem.  Thanks, it's going quite well at the moment, the content and way The Call was written seems to be what I'm winning on, however not all the votes are in so I may just have gotten lucky with the first two!

Cheers

Carl

Troo

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #49 on: March 25, 2007, 07:27:34 pm »
Actually Carl, a really excellent place to get decent crits on your work is here: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php

I've found the writers there to be extremely helpful, polite, and constructive in their feedback. But do join in elsewhere in the forums before requesting feedback of your own.

Offline joshua rainbird

  • Whirlpool
  • Barbarian Monarch
  • ****
  • Posts: 589
  • Overlation stimuload...
    • View Profile
    • myspace/joshuarainbird
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #50 on: March 25, 2007, 10:20:02 pm »
You might also want to consider www.urbis.com where you critique others to earns credits to unlock peer critiques on your own work.
It can be a ruthless arena at times but highly entertaining in ego-masochistic way.  ;D
If wishes were horses then we'd all be eating steak.
Jayne Cobb, Firefly.

But ... if fishes were courses then we'd all be eating hake ...

C.C.Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #51 on: March 29, 2007, 06:33:36 pm »
Well The Call won me the first bracket, and so I am through to round 2.  My entry for this round is probably going to be something sci-fi!

C.C.Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: Some interesting (hopefully!) short stories...
« Reply #52 on: April 14, 2007, 01:34:31 pm »
Even though I doubt anyone is still reading, I have ripped the entire first section of The Cairn out, and added a sci-fi piece to the site which I would dearly love to have critiqued!

Carl