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Author Topic: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread  (Read 3962 times)

Offline JMack

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Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« on: June 02, 2017, 12:04:59 AM »
Anyone who wants a critique for their story posts in here.
Anyone who wants to do a critique for a specific story (whose writer has asked for critique) posts it in here.

- Critique isn't always easy to handle, especially if you are not used to it. So if you feel more comfortable receiving it in private, people can send it via PM.

- Critiques are great to find strengths and weaknesses in a story. What was well executed or not. What people liked and didn't. And most important, why. All great things to grow and learn.

- Specially here, where we have published authors with entire series out, authors with works in progress, authors who've just began, people who sporadically write only for fun and even those who don't write but read a lot. We are also pretty friendly, so fear not.

- Maybe you don't feel confident enough yet to give critiques to others but still want them for your story. That's fine and understandable. I still say for you to try at least, as it does help with your own writing.
Also, you can just point out the things you liked in a story. People will undoubtedly love to know what they did right.

- Do try to reciprocate if others comment on your story, as a form of courtesy.

- You can also just ask for critiques about specific things. Maybe you really liked your characters and just want to know opinions on your plot. Maybe after re-reading later you know the flaws in your plot twist or magic system and don't want/need more people telling that, but you still want to know about characterization.
All free game, we're pretty flexible.

- If you want a critique, I'd recommend asking for it within the first two weeks of the month, if not the first. That's when most people are recharging the batteries from the previous month and are mostly just mulling over ideas.
From the 15th onwards I believe people are either starting, finishing or polishing their next piece. You can still ask, but I'd recommend asking early.

A small guideline:

   
Quote
1. Please read what the poster is asking for before you post your critique.
                        2. Critique the writing, not the writer.  Never, “You are...” or “You should...” but rather, “The writing is...” or “The story should...”
                        3. We all have different levels of writing ability here, keep that in mind when critiquing.
                        4. Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong.
                        5. Remember that subject matter is personal. You don't have to like a story to give it a fair critique.
                        6. Remember what your biases are and critique around them.
                        7. Remember that real people wrote this stuff, and real people have real feelings. Things you may not say while critiquing: “That’s awful.” “That’s stupid.” “You couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag.”



We also have a template to help. You don't need to use it, you can critique in any form you like.

Selected Quote:
Something Awesome:
Theme Appropriateness:
Conflict and Tension:
Characterization:
Something Confusing:
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline JMack

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2017, 12:27:23 AM »

My poem, annotated, for @Nora and anyone else.

Magic.

A man walks across the street, and a car misses him by an inch.
A Slurpee cup sails from the car window, and misses him by an inch.
It smacks the pavement, spraying red ice across black tar.
It could have been him.
It could have been blood.

An omen.
He knows it.
It shivers down his spine.
He will not die today.

Spoiler for Hiden:
A man is almost the victim of a mean prank. Having dodged the blood-red slurpee, he concludes he is invincible that day.

The man walks into a bank, finger pointed inside his pocket.
Steals away with a thousand dollars.
The ink pack is a dud.
He laughs, and skips a little skip.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Since he is invincible, the man robs a bank. He gets away with it; even the usual exploding dye pack that bank tellers put in a bank robber's haul of money fails to explode.

The man swims across another man's pool
to drink from his glass and smoke his cigar.
He winks at the man's wife, and escapes, giggling.
A gun shot, a ripple of air, and nothing more.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Continuing his adventures, the invincible man dares to swim through a family's pool and kiss the wife. The sentence us uses sexist language, which fits the man's ego at this time. The husband tries to kill the invincible man, but the shot misses.

The man flies a plane, dances a tango,
races a train, dodges a mango
thrown by a dude in a pool hall
down on Durango.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Silly passage that continues the adventures.

And, finally, stops, and wonders.

Spoiler for Hiden:
But finally, reality begins to catch up. The man becomes somewhat reflective.

He climbs a mountain,
reaching the top as the sun declines,
and the magical day
ends.

Why? he asks the sky.
Why me, and why today?

Spoiler for Hiden:
The invincible man climbs a mountain - still adventuring - but now in quest of actual meaning rather than empty ego and self-centered entertainment. He gets no answer except...

A rock falls from the stars,
striking the cliffs,
missing him by a mile.

An omen.
He knows it.
It drops the bottom from his heart.
He could die today.

Spoiler for Hiden:
In contrast to the near-thing slurpee attack that started the day, the meteor misses the man by a mile. But his outrageous and unreasonable confidence is gone. He recognizes he could die. Maybe he could have died all along.

Like any day.
Like any other magical day.

Spoiler for Hiden:
And maybe that doesn't matter, compared to the magic of being alive and dying.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2017, 01:10:00 AM »
A rock falls from the stars,
striking the cliffs,
missing him by a mile.

An omen.
He knows it.
It drops the bottom from his heart.
He could die today.
What threw me was this part. I thought the omen referred to his extraordinary day. I see it was the stone, after all.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Nora

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2017, 01:15:55 AM »
I'd love critics, both for what didn't make it vote-worthy, but also from the won over people, as I'm clueless when it comes to romance and i need to know what I managed to do well!!

It's 1am though so I'll do my own reviews tomorrow/this week.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline LightRunner

Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2017, 04:01:10 AM »
I'd also like critiques. I'm not really sure where my writing is weakest, but lately I've been thinking about my actual writing. Sentence construction, vocabulary, and describing a scene without it being a list of actions. Making my words accomplish more than one thing, like advancing both plot and character with the same phrase.

If my writing isn't distracting or dull, I'm always concerned about plot, tension, and keeping things from being boring.

Also, if I'm totally off base and there's something else you think I should really be working on, please let me know.

@Jmack - Are you looking for critiques or were you just posting to satisfy curiosity?

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2017, 05:18:41 AM »



I'd also like critiques. I'm not really sure where my writing is weakest, but lately I've been thinking about my actual writing. Sentence construction, vocabulary, and describing a scene without it being a list of actions. Making my words accomplish more than one thing, like advancing both plot and character with the same phrase.

If my writing isn't distracting or dull, I'm always concerned about plot, tension, and keeping things from being boring.

Also, if I'm totally off base and there's something else you think I should really be working on, please let me know.

So I'm no scholar, either, but here are my thoughts on this story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The lunar orb waxes and wanes
Along with that called woman’s bane  - "Along with that" is a modern usage, but I like poems in stories.
Once a month you get a glimpse                     
Of the future in broad hints                           

Tara re-read the words carved into the wooden desk of the library. When would she start glimpsing the future? Shaking her head, she focused on the fragmented stone tablet in front of her.

Heed the wisdom of the night
Lest you lose your second sight

I am visual and would have presented the poem after showing the setting, otherwise, you're asking the reader to rewind the audible tape (in my case) and replace it with a camera pan of a desk in a library (which was perfect and succinct description btw, so kudos there). I find ambiguity cumulative, but that may just be me. This was amplified because the next words made me wonder: are all the words on the desk? Or only the first part? Or only the second? After some time, I realized there are words in the desk and in the tablet. IMHO always frame the picture first, esp. when something normally ignored (words carved in a desk) are weightier than normal.


An ancient scholar had labeled this as one of Lenore’s earliest visions. Tara had doubts; it didn’t fit with the rest of Lenore’s foretellings.
The tablet bit is too far from the mention of the tablet imho.

Tara closed her eyes to think. This tablet appeared to be about losing a woman’s ability to glimpse the future, but Tara hoped it would help her tap her innate power. Unfortunately, the only idea she had for the “wisdom of the night” was dreaming. But she recorded her dreams every night and still hadn’t started her cycle. Besides, stacks of scrolls and tablets in the library contained women’s dreams, but none of them had particularly brilliant insights associated with them.

What else could it mean?

Two issues in these parts. First is POV. The eye-closing and the following sentences have us in a close-up, looking at her face, then at the tablet. Then we jump inside her head to get her thoughts, but are given her feelings (hope). We jump out to look at the scrolls, etc. The closing question is direct from the character. None of these by themselves is "wrong" or anything, but my opinion is that you pick a distance and stay with it. If you move it, let it be in reaction to something, and when possible, make it a flow in a single direction, like a camera: in from the library, to her face, into her head, and stay there.

A thump on the door startled Tara and she jumped, nearly hitting the fragile tablet. A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened.

"Hitting" as a verb for accidentally striking something with the body is a modern and/or casual usage. The curse sentence was great. I like when characters swallow their sentiments, as it shows a real, identifiable action.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair to the elderly woman with a walking stick hobbling into the library.

Update elements in the setting before they do or say anything, or are impacted by others whenever possible. Consider the impact of reversing:
 A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened, and Grandmother hobbled in with her walking stick.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair. “Grandmother,” she said, inclining her head.


So my advice is to think like film-makers - who only rarely pitch dialogue or action without showing us what's going on before it begins. And when they do, it's for a specific effect. Your dialogue was great - the old woman and the young sounded different. Tightening up POV will further strengthen it.
Hope this is helpful.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline JMack

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2017, 11:09:22 AM »
@Jmack - Are you looking for critiques or were you just posting to satisfy curiosity?

Curiosity, mainly. But I'll take any comments folks may have.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline LightRunner

Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2017, 01:06:01 AM »



I'd also like critiques. I'm not really sure where my writing is weakest, but lately I've been thinking about my actual writing. Sentence construction, vocabulary, and describing a scene without it being a list of actions. Making my words accomplish more than one thing, like advancing both plot and character with the same phrase.

If my writing isn't distracting or dull, I'm always concerned about plot, tension, and keeping things from being boring.

Also, if I'm totally off base and there's something else you think I should really be working on, please let me know.

So I'm no scholar, either, but here are my thoughts on this story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The lunar orb waxes and wanes
Along with that called woman’s bane  - "Along with that" is a modern usage, but I like poems in stories.
Once a month you get a glimpse                     
Of the future in broad hints                           

Tara re-read the words carved into the wooden desk of the library. When would she start glimpsing the future? Shaking her head, she focused on the fragmented stone tablet in front of her.

Heed the wisdom of the night
Lest you lose your second sight

I am visual and would have presented the poem after showing the setting, otherwise, you're asking the reader to rewind the audible tape (in my case) and replace it with a camera pan of a desk in a library (which was perfect and succinct description btw, so kudos there). I find ambiguity cumulative, but that may just be me. This was amplified because the next words made me wonder: are all the words on the desk? Or only the first part? Or only the second? After some time, I realized there are words in the desk and in the tablet. IMHO always frame the picture first, esp. when something normally ignored (words carved in a desk) are weightier than normal.


An ancient scholar had labeled this as one of Lenore’s earliest visions. Tara had doubts; it didn’t fit with the rest of Lenore’s foretellings.
The tablet bit is too far from the mention of the tablet imho.

Tara closed her eyes to think. This tablet appeared to be about losing a woman’s ability to glimpse the future, but Tara hoped it would help her tap her innate power. Unfortunately, the only idea she had for the “wisdom of the night” was dreaming. But she recorded her dreams every night and still hadn’t started her cycle. Besides, stacks of scrolls and tablets in the library contained women’s dreams, but none of them had particularly brilliant insights associated with them.

What else could it mean?

Two issues in these parts. First is POV. The eye-closing and the following sentences have us in a close-up, looking at her face, then at the tablet. Then we jump inside her head to get her thoughts, but are given her feelings (hope). We jump out to look at the scrolls, etc. The closing question is direct from the character. None of these by themselves is "wrong" or anything, but my opinion is that you pick a distance and stay with it. If you move it, let it be in reaction to something, and when possible, make it a flow in a single direction, like a camera: in from the library, to her face, into her head, and stay there.

A thump on the door startled Tara and she jumped, nearly hitting the fragile tablet. A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened.

"Hitting" as a verb for accidentally striking something with the body is a modern and/or casual usage. The curse sentence was great. I like when characters swallow their sentiments, as it shows a real, identifiable action.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair to the elderly woman with a walking stick hobbling into the library.

Update elements in the setting before they do or say anything, or are impacted by others whenever possible. Consider the impact of reversing:
 A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened, and Grandmother hobbled in with her walking stick.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair. “Grandmother,” she said, inclining her head.


So my advice is to think like film-makers - who only rarely pitch dialogue or action without showing us what's going on before it begins. And when they do, it's for a specific effect. Your dialogue was great - the old woman and the young sounded different. Tightening up POV will further strengthen it.
Hope this is helpful.

Thank you for the detailed commentary! I am not a super visual person when I read (whenever we'd be asked to look at the covers of books in English class after having read the whole thing I would realized that I had never actually thought about the images on the cover),  so that is really helpful advice to think of it like filmmaking.

I tend to stay away from first-person as I'm more used to third-person limited, but maybe I'll try it out for one of the next few months to practice immediacy and chronological presentation of information.

Offline LightRunner

Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2017, 01:24:15 AM »
For @Jmack
Spoiler for Hiden:

Selected Quote:

"Like any day.
Like any other magical day."

The repetition worked really well and I loved how the insertion of the word "magical" brought a general appreciation of life to the poem. We fantasy readers probably use the word "magic" as much as anyone else and it doesn't always convey the sense of wonder that it perhaps should. It did here.

Something Awesome: As I said in the other thread, I thought it was really cool how you used the word omen and didn't necessarily attach a negative feeling to it.
 
Theme Appropriateness: High.

Conflict and Tension: Looking back at the poem, I think you were able to increase the pace of the poem well by increasing the number of things that happen in each stanza.

Characterization: You conveyed the recklessness of the man well, but I like how he remained nameless.

Something Confusing: I always expect poems to be confusing.  ;)  I guess one thing that I might have thought as I was reading without thinking too hard was that the man considered each of his near misses to be omens as well (which is clearly not what you wrote). Also, when I read about the meteor missing by a mile, at first I thought, "Well, that's pretty far away, which is not as dramatic as his other escapes," and then I thought, "But a comet's pretty big, so in the grand scheme of things, a mile isn't that far." It sort of threw me out of the poem for a moment though.


Hope that's helpful!

Offline JMack

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Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2017, 01:29:44 AM »
Thanks, @LightRunner!
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline LightRunner

Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2017, 02:02:00 AM »
@Nora
I'd love critics, both for what didn't make it vote-worthy, but also from the won over people, as I'm clueless when it comes to romance and i need to know what I managed to do well!!


Let's see if I can figure out what I liked so much about your story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I think the reason the romance worked well is because it was obvious to the reader that Jean liked Hatori and Hatori's cluelessness/insecurity was believable. I think Hatori worked well because you were able to show that he was really good at something (being an augure), knew that he was good at it (in a confident, self-assured, but not cocky way) and yet had this beaten down weariness. Also, he has this deep empathy and understanding of human beings, yet is unable to realize how Jean feels about him without a lot of help. He even has all the pieces there, but can't put them together.

"she calls him Ha-san with just enough irony to be perfectly adorable"
"He knows she'd leave him be if he asked"

I'm not really sure what else to say. I am not a huge fan of stereotypical romantic depictions, but I liked this one because it focused on the relationship; it was clear that they had been getting to know each other for months before this moment. There's maybe a bit of imbalance because we don't really see Hatori trying to do anything for Jean, but Jean is obviously doing things for him - bringing beers, asking him questions, respecting whether or not he wants to talk about his day. But maybe that is offset by her boldness to touch his forehead without receiving consent - that seems like a violation of Hatori's person and jarred me when I first read it.

At this point I think I'm just rambling, so I'll stop. If there's anything you want me to try to look into more, let me know.

I hope this is helpful!