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Author Topic: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread  (Read 6184 times)

Offline xiagan

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[July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« on: September 01, 2014, 09:59:56 AM »
So here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in our Apprenticeship writing contest - and to give critique as well.

If everybody wants and gives critique, this thread will be pure chaos soon, while 2-3 critiques for as many stories shouldn't be a problem. We'll see how it goes and adapt if necessary. :)

So what we're doing is this:
1. Everybody who wants critique for his story posts in here.*
2. Everybody who wants to do a critique for a specific story (whose writer has asked for critique) posts it in here.

IF this thread is overrun fast, I'm splitting it so that every story has it's own one to avoid confusion. :)

* I know that 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. They can post here that they sent a critique via pm so that others know about it.

At the moment I don't think it necessary that we create a system balancing given/received critiques. However, if it turns out to be unfair and some people are giving critiques without receiving some (or the other way round) we have to add one.

Basic rules for critiquing:

This is just a small guideline for those that haven't done critiques before, stolen from this forum's writing section.
Quote
Critiquing Other’s Work
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.”
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline ryanmcgowan

[July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2014, 03:57:14 PM »
Would love a critique of mine if poss. And to try my hand at a critique too.  I'm thick skinned so don't hold back if it's something that needs to be said.


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It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline LisaElle

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2014, 09:16:46 PM »
Hi Ryan, I'll have a go at giving you some feedback. On the whole I really liked the moody atmosphere you were going for here! There wasn't a lot of detail to the setting or characters which gave them a nice mysterious quality. All I could see of the slave boy in my head were his bright blue eyes, while everything else about him was hazy, which was a cool effect. I know it can be like walking a tight rope when writing like this though, in trying to decide how much to detail to add or to leave out. I'd suggest the mystery was taken too far at times in this story. Sometimes I found myself having to read a sentence several times to understand what happened. Taking the first paragraph for example:

Quote
In my twelfth summer the soldiers came.  Father died with sword in hand, the screams of mother and sister in the air.  Screaming still when the swords turned to me.  In my twelfth summer the unbridled power of fire magic came to me.  There is only scorched earth and ashes where my village once stood.

I had to stop straight away to figure out whose mother or sister, the father's or the narrator's. I assumed the narrator's but including the word "my" would have saved me the confusion.

Starting the next sentence with "screaming still" caused me to stumble over it. I had to keep reading to figure it out. I'd suggest replacing with "They were still screaming when the swords turned to me."

 "In my twelfth summer" came next but that had already been said only a line ago so I didn't think it was necessary.

The last sentence is an unexpected switch from past to present tense which also threw me off course. Even including the words "now" or "today" to describe the present destruction of the village would have helped the transition.

On the whole it was sentence structure that I found the biggest challenge when reading through the story. It seems to me like it was the type of character voice you were using that caused this trouble, aka the mystery man. ;) Might just be something to keep in mind for future writing. Hope this helps.

PS:
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I know there is no truth, only that which a man holds to be true.
This was my favourite line. So true. Or is it...? :o

PPS: I'd be very happy for you to critique mine too if you have the time/interest :)
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline ryanmcgowan

[July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2014, 09:52:13 PM »
LisaElle thanks so much for taking the time! 
I had worried that some of the stylistic phrasing I'd tried to experiment with wouldn't work.    I ran out of the time it would appear it needed lol.
E.g. The first paragraph was supposed to suggest that he had destroyed his village during the attack, having at that moment come into his powers.

Thanks again for taking the time, all taken on board and will keep in mind for my next attempt.

I'll try and critique your story in turn (will be my first critique) will do my best



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It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline AzWingsFan

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2014, 09:01:26 AM »
Would Love a critique as well, havent really done this before, so I i need all the help i can get
Fan of Classic/Epic Fantasy and Grimdark

Working on writing a book. Any advice will be taken graciously.

Offline ryanmcgowan

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2014, 11:25:21 AM »
Hi again Lisa, so this is my attempt at feedback/critique, hope its helpful. 

So first off I want to apologize for being picky or harsh, your story was just that good.  If I didn't nit-pick I don't think I'd have much to critique and all I could give would be positive feedback :)

And so...

Quote
In these dark days, even a child of Elli's age wasn't too young to sense that happiness was a fragile treasure, easily shattered if it fell into the wrong hands.


I enjoyed this line and it may be a matter of individual preference but I feel that the sentence was stretching-out and "If it fell into" was a little clunky.  It might read better simply as "In the wrong hands."  Actually reading it again, I don't think that would work either.  possibly shortening the entire sentence to: "In these dark days, even a child of Elli's age wasn't too young to sense that happiness was a fragile treasure, easily shattered." might read a little smoother?

Quote
"Are you watching grandma?" Elli was saying. "
Not 100% on this but I'd have dropped a comma in, between watching and grandma.

Quote
If Elli showed the potential that Caralyn was afraid of in the next few minutes, it would make their home more vulnerable to a raid and a whole host of other difficulties would be soon to follow.
  For me this sentence has stretched out too long again.  Its something of a weakness of mine so I may be overly sensitive to it.  Someone on this forum once told me he tries to keep his sentences below 21 words as a rule of thumb.  Anyways I'd personally drop "In the next few minutes," as it isn't really required and would help the sentence flow a little smoother as well as lowering its word-count.

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Caralyn watched Elli, offering a silent prayer to all the gods that nothing would come of this experiment.
  Again I'd drop 'all' from this sentence as its not really needed.

Quote
"He's a good pebblekin. He won't do anything bad unless I tell him to."
I loved this line.  The innocence of "He won't do anything bad" clashes perfectly with "Unless I tell him to." It brought the cheeky mischievous grin of my daughter straight to mind.

Quote
channelling her essence into them until she had none left inside her to stay alive. Caralyn couldn't bear to think of the end that would await her then.
Only one L in channeling, (May be a UK/American spelling difference?) Also I thought "To stay alive." at the end of the sentence felt a little clunky. 

Quote
We'll do this together my love and you can be my teacher for a change.
I like that you've turned the apprentice/master rolls on their heads, with the old lady learning from her granddaughter.

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"Maybe she won't give you the command to kill," she whispered to it. "But I will learn to. I'll give it a thousand times over if that's what it takes to keep her safe."
Again the unexpected malice of the kindly and frightened old grandmother is good, like the dangerous she wolf protecting her young pup.

Quote
The pebblekin said nothing and stayed as still as the statue that it was.
  I think possibly this is overstating and may read better simply as "The pebblekin said nothing, standing in perfect statuesque silence." or something to that effect.

Anyhoo Lisa, that's my best and if I'm honest I don't really think your story needs changed at all.  It was a really interesting idea that genuinely has the feet to expand on, I'd love to know how things turned out for the pair of them.

Again I hope you find something helpful in here somewhere.

Ryan.
It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline LisaElle

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2014, 10:27:47 PM »
Thanks so much Ryan! I appreciate all the effort. That all made a lot of sense to me, I'd agree with most everything you said, some of the sentences were too long. I like the picky critiques too, they're always helpful :)
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2014, 07:55:15 AM »
By the way Lisa, that was just one opinion, hehe
I like long sentences (as long as they are in the right place, of course) and I didn't find anything wrong in the ones that Ryan picked from your story. There was a story (I think this month, but it could have been last), that started with a whole paragraph of 5-6 words' sentences and I immediately stopped reading, it felt like a children's book.

And on a side note - this isn't a place for proof-reading, is it? Picking spelling and grammar mistakes?
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Offline LisaElle

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2014, 09:00:48 PM »
Hi ScarletBea, thanks for the feedback. I do realize it was just one opinion but I agreed those sentences could be shortened a bit. Each to their own really :) I can understand why sentences that are too short would be off putting as well. I tend to like them in scenes with high tension, otherwise they do come across as a bit strange.

As for what this thread should be used for, I think that anyone should be free to critique in whatever way occurs to them. Like for me, if I'm giving feedback, it depends on what area I think could use the most attention in a story to make it stronger. That said I could remark on anything from theme to character to grammar or whatever else. I think there's a lesson in anything constructive that someone else has to say about your work, no matter what angle they approach it from.

But really when it comes to critique I just love the idea of writers feeling comfortable enough to discuss their work with each other and share advice, that's what's most important to me. I've always found it to be such an encouraging way to learn. :D
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline ryanmcgowan

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2014, 09:53:41 PM »
LisaElle, I agree.  I was afraid I may have offended, which was by no means my intention and I definitely didn't want to start a mud throwing fight about critique's so had resisted replying to ScarletBea. 

For myself I find spelling, grammar and sentence structure critique's or pointers very helpful, being dyslexic I'm always looking to improve myself in these areas.  No doubt knowledge of our own weaknesses directly effect those we pick up in others as we're overly sensitive to them ourselves.  As you say though anything constructive is always very helpful and understanding others angles of approach to each piece of work (Much like different readers) can only help to strengthen our own writing.

Again as you say, critique that comes from a positive place is encouraging and as such, an enjoyable way to learn.

On a side note, any plans to continue and expand your story?
It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2014, 08:02:10 AM »
Oh Ryan, I didn't mean to pick up on you specifically, and the proof-reading, sorry if people took it that way.
Spelling and grammar are absolutely key for me, and I proof-read for a friend - as well as being the person at work who always points out those mistakes in colleagues' presentations, hehe
I just wondered if a forum thread was the best place for it, but sure, go ahead.
Sorry again for the misunderstanding.
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

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Offline ryanmcgowan

[July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2014, 07:44:31 AM »
Ah right Scarlet, no worries.  AzWingsFan would you like me to Critique for you? No big deal if you'd prefer someone else.


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It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline AzWingsFan

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2014, 04:37:49 PM »
I would like anyone to. I appreciate all criticism as I know my weaknesses. Thank you!
Fan of Classic/Epic Fantasy and Grimdark

Working on writing a book. Any advice will be taken graciously.

Offline LisaElle

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2014, 08:34:54 PM »
It's all good Scarlet :D And Ryan I hadn't thought about expanding on it. Now that you mention it though it could be fun to do another theme at some stage based on the same characters. I'll certainly think about it.
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline LisaElle

Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Critique Thread
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2014, 12:02:30 PM »
I'll see if I can give you some feedback AzWingsFan :) Sorry it's coming so late, I'm just back from a couple weeks holiday. I think your piece of writing definitely stuck to the theme and that a torturer's apprentice is a great idea for a story. I felt that it read more like a character bio than a short story though, especially the first paragraph. This seemed like the kind of thing that would be written to allow a writer to get into a character in preparation to write about them, if that makes sense? In a finished story a reader will generally learn about a character through its actions and conversations with others, rather than the writer telling us all about them in the opening paragraph. This is usually called "info dumping" (if that's not too harsh a term) and it's opposite would be called "show don't tell" which I've learned is a better habit to get into. For example:

Quote
His parents although working long hours gave Zel whatever time they could.

Instead of making this statement (which calls attention to yourself, speaking as the writer, rather than the character Zel) you could maybe describe a memory of Zel's that educates the reader about his relationship with his family. This would paint a better picture and keep your reader engaged with the story. Something like:

Quote
Zel recalled the weary face of his mother as she smiled at him, returning from a day of hard but honest work. Zel hated that smile.

This might not fit with your vision but hopefully it explains what I'm suggesting? It shows that Zel's parents work hard and that he's loved but that he doesn't like his family, possibly because he thinks they're better than he is. Learning to write this way is really important, it's what will make your story come to life for you and your reader.

When it comes to the short story format, I'd also suggest focusing on one special challenge that your character has to face, whether they succeed or fail, and how that changes them in the end. I learned this lately too and I found it really helps me. Hopefully it'll be a useful pointer here as well :)
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov