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Author Topic: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread  (Read 14875 times)

Offline night_wrtr

[SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« on: November 01, 2016, 11:47:05 PM »
Here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in the writing contest - and to give critiques as well.

So what we're doing is this:
1. Everybody who wants critique for their 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.

* 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.

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.”

If you need help getting started on a critique, our own m3m suggested the following:

Something Awesome:

Something Boring:

Something Confusing:

Something Unbelievable:


*****If anyone has ideas or suggestions regarding this thread or how we could improve the process for giving/receiving critiques, we would love to hear them. Please click this sentence to join in the discussion.

Offline JMack

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2016, 12:22:54 AM »
 Very interested in feedback on Greenship.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
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Offline Lanko

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2016, 12:55:56 AM »
I’m free game for critiques of my story! If you could also take the time to answer this question, it would also be appreacited, but it’s by no means necessary!

1) I had too many situations/conflicts happening and didn’t focus on any of them (MC suddenly becoming a pirate, MC fighting her own father, MC overthrowing the king, MC accumulating money, relationship with guy living underwater for years). Can you pick one or two (or none) that was/could be the most interesting?

Some of my own thoughts, that may or may not be true (don't read it AFTER you do a critique!)

Spoiler for Hiden:
- Too much narrative summary, barely anything shown, although it’s great for speed (specially if you are writing, in like, the last day of a contest  ::)). But this didn't allow proper development.
- I think the ending was too convenient, she just got everything she wanted with no penalty. I should have made them run away and live as pirates, or fight her father again, or fail and they both die, or something.
- Should have made the increase in gold happen due to her own piracy increasing prices/inflation/whatever.
- Said she was beaten and injured yet the next moment she is storming a castle…
- I like magic being able to create an underwater building in a Medieval setting, but now I couldn’t think of any reason to built it, specially with its costs.
- And the wizards did nothing when the king was overthrown.
- I liked she lives a double life with a secret identity, but as a “villain” to society. And to explore the theme “how far one would go to save someone they love”.
- I also wonder how plausible it would be to live underwater for months/years, as some kind of “underwater Martian in a magical medieval world”. I like very unusual things done with magic, but maybe I should have make him sick or something.
- The king was a cartoonishly bad ruler, it’s easy to depose without a second thought those types. Maybe he could have been a really nice guy with small children, but just couldn’t afford to save those people due to war/famine/etc. That could add an extra layer instead of just going the easy way to make MC look good. She could be right to try to save someone she loves, but would also affect more people and look selfish.
Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019

Offline night_wrtr

Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2016, 01:12:08 AM »
Greenship by @Jmack

Spoiler for Hiden:
Something Awesome:
Lafttak is one of the coolest names ever. I was immediately intrigued early on when it talks about the wood of the ship and if it were alive he could whisper to Rintikk down below. Then we see Rintikk do that very thing because she is stronger. Awesome.

There was good suspense with Morwen being tossed over once the pirates arrived, Lafttak jumping in after her and the giant captain. The magic was super interesting especially once Rintikk became the ship. I would love to see more of that magic.

"Glorious eartips."  ;D

"Rintikk is the Kestrel. The keel is her spine, the braces her ribs, the deck and planks her skin. It's her deck the pirates are fouling."
Love this.

Something Boring:
I was never bored during this, but see below for confusing. :-)

Something Confusing:
I had a hard time understanding who was speaking here:
"Where'd those devils go off to now?"
"D'you think they'll pay for 'em?"


I had to read it twice because I felt like I missed a few things. I'm wondering how the magic or the strength in the magic comes from. Lafttak says she couldn't breath life into the dead ship, but Rintikk ends up doing a lot more than that becoming the ship. It seemed like there wasn't much of a struggle for her to accomplish this as it was more focused on the happenings with everything else. It just kind of happens.

"As the knife cuts, Rintikk opens the Kestrel's woody skin."
This is one of the parts that I got the second time through, but on the first read I didn't connect it very well to what was actually happening.

Rintikk is a Goddess, but not sure what that means to the story. And Morwen is the priestess, does she have any abilities with magic, too? She had the vision of pirates, but I was thinking that she was the powerful one until the Goddess part.

Something Unbelievable:
Why does Lafttak jump in after Morwen when his beloved and Goddess is left alone with the pirates?

Extra: I had this on my voting bubble. The magic was interested and the story was enjoyable. I think the confusing parts is what kept me from voting.

I am also interested in a critique if anyone is willing. Let me know if you would like one too.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2016, 01:14:44 AM by night_wrtr »

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2016, 01:35:59 AM »
I'll give some feedback once I'm actually awake.

I felt my entry was a bit weak this month, but couldn't decide why. Would appreciate any critiques.  :)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2016, 03:22:59 AM »
Very interested in feedback on Greenship.
My critique of Greenship. Hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Caveats:
- As always, comments and advice rendered with respect. I'd have never come up with this idea in a million years, and it was great. Most of my points are hair-splitting, but the devil's in the details, so I went there.

- I cannot stand the present tense. I loved the imagination and unique aspects, but the present tense put me in “disciplined mode,” I read it because we're friends and it was the right thing to do, and discovered I liked the story despite the tense. Look at me, growing and stuff.

- I voted for this story for its creative and unique aspects, and some morsels of real drama. It may be that present tense hemmed you into some choices, and if my advice is ignorant of them, my apologies.

Night on the sea after the storm. The clatter and commotion of men working by lamplight to restore the shredded rigging of their crippled ship.
(I liked the short-hand description, and appreciated the confidence/lack of spoon feeding the setting. Excellent use of instincts of what the audience would expect and working from that shared view throughout. The lack of any visible verbs delays but intensifies the realization of this being a present tense story. This would have been the best paragraph for that task because there’s nothing going on, just scene setup, and it’s perfect for orienting the reader to the story’s “now”, which is going to be in present tense.)

Lafttak climbs the ratlines, carrying whatever is needed to wherever the bigfolk want it. He may be a passenger, but he can help. Most laugh to see him lifting barrels of tar or coils of rope twice his height, and grunt their thanks, then make the evil eye when his back is turned. Greenfolk aren't very welcome on human ships.
(This para highlights the weakness of present tense, as we are unsure whether we should imagine Laftak climbing the ropes NOW, or are discussing his typical duties. We don’t get the answer until the second sentence, causing a mental reset. This cost me the enjoyment of the evocative details that finish the para. Insertion of a temporal tag like "On most days...")

He pauses on a crosstree and thinks of Rintikk, sleeping in their cabin below. He aches to hear her voice. If the wood of the ship was alive, he'd only need to whisper and she'd hear him. But deadwood like this, he'd have to shout; and after the pounding of the hurricane, she needs her sleep.
(Now we have shifted to what we’re supposed to visualize, but because the last para was not in the story’s ‘now’, we spend the first sentence figuring this out. Excellent use of implication to communicate exposition on her magic, and confidence that the audience gets it.)

Belowdecks, Rintikk startles awake to a hand on her sleeve. Morwen, the bigfolk priestess, another passenger on the Kestrel, kneels by her.

"What's wrong?"
(This could be deleted, which would heighten the suspense of the next sentence and save words)

“Something comes,” says the priestess.

“Another storm?”

“Something worse.”

Rintikk raises up on an elbow. Lafttak’s place next to her is empty.  “Why tell me?”

“The goddess sent me a dream,” The priestess says. “Black wings spreading over a red sky. I was a mouse, and it caught me. I was a fish, and it snared me. I was drowning, and you, Rintikk, were the raft that saved me.” (excellent foreshadowing, cleverly literal in the symbolic sense, but Laftak saves her?)

“Couldn’t the goddess have waited until morning?”

Morwen smiles. “You don’t think much of my goddess. But she thinks much of you." Then she frowns. "Look west.”  (I liked this part, minus the "Then" which pulls out of dialogue and sounds like a narrator's voice intruding)

Rintikk touches her fingertips to the hull of the ship. Her voice travels easily to Lafttak. He might struggle to speak through deadwood, but Rintikk's magic is much stronger than his.
(The final narrator sentence could be deleted. I think the audience would infer on their own that she’s more powerful, or crafted into "Her more powerful voice...")

-Beloved?- 
(A tag to show who hears this, would orient to his POV. Unsure if this is her talking or him hearing, and though it could be either, not knowing is jarring in a small way in itself)

-Heh. You missed me-
(His reply contradicts his earlier limitation of power to yelling, seemingly)

-Quiet, idiot. Go higher. Look west-

Lafttak climbs to the crows nest, surprising the lookout. The sky in the east is the powdery grey of the hour before dawn. The west is black, shining with stars. Something dark moves on the horizon. (excellent imagery and foreshadowing)

Lafttak points. The lookout stoops to line up his head with Lafttak’s. He stiffens, and cries out. “Sail ho!”

Mid-morning. Lafttak, Rintikk, and Morwen stand at the stern, watching the pursuing ship draw closer. The Ketrel's captain and crew have done what they can, but the jury-rigged sails just aren't enough.
(The absence of present-tense versions of “be” accentuates the use of present tense in the initial fragment. Skipping from spotting a sail to this moment deprives us of the reactions of chars to the spotted sail, which is important. Combined this is jarring, but does spawn story questions, the engine of interest. Unsure what to advise, but I think the suspense of it being viewed as a bad thing would be powerful and adjust the mood by shifting from the reader question "What is it?" to a character/reader question "Can we/they get away?")

Rintikk runs a hand along the ship's railing. “She wants to run. I could help.”

Lafttak shakes his head. "Even you can't breathe life into a dead ship." Rintikk's woodsense is what he first noticed about her. That, and her glorious eartips. But still - she should know her limits.
(like the eartips comment)

A bell rings, and the Kestrel's captain addresses the crew. His message is stark. The pirates have canon, guns, men - we have less of everything. If we fight, we'll die. Stay calm. Obey your officers. They'll take the ship, but leave us the longboats to reach land. All will be well.
(Wrong canon. First sentence allows for misunderstanding of “men” as the people he’s talking to. Would suggest “The pirates have more cannons, more guns, and many more men.” Suggest you adhere to similar plural to maximize parallelism (cannons, guns, men), even though cannon can be used as a substantive noun)

 A canon booms from the pirate's bow, sending a ball screaming into the sea ahead. At a nod from the captain, the boatswain lowers the colors.
(frequent use of this first sentence’s structure feels repetitive [subj.+verb, verb+ing etc.]. I checked, and it isn’t, but perhaps the normal rarity of this sent. structure makes it seem more frequent than it is here)

The captain turns to the two greenfolk. “I'm not sure what to do with you two. Some of the crew think you're bad luck. But you paid your passage same as the priestess here." He lowers his voice. "But these are pirates, and pirates are a superstitious lot. You'd best hide until we're safely away, then swim out to the boats."
(I’d capitalize Greenfolk. His confusion is misplaced and provides unneeded exposition. If he’d jumped right to the recommendation, there’d be more urgency, which is appropriate. Recalling who paid at that moment seems administrative and discordant)

The thought of running galls Lafttak - it's all he's done since he declared his love for Rintikk and had to flee his father's palace - but Rintikk pulls him away. They climb the ratlines and crouch behind the bundled course sail. Rintikk puts on a brave smile. Lafttak kisses the point of her ear.
(The love and father stuff is unneeded exposition. It's enough to know running galls him [great usage btw]. I’d advise trading the space for a simpler explanation earlier on – they’re on a voyage to a new future, leaving everything behind. It’s better as a mystery, and the space would be better used for irony – perhaps this is not the future they imagined. Or use the space to exploit the crack in my heart you opened when you showed Laftak detecting her brave façade. I eat that stuff up)

The black ship draws even with the Kestrel. Ragged men line its rails. In the center, one figure stands heads taller than the rest, swathed in red.
(Good imagery)

Rintikk presses her fingers to the mast and sends her mind into the wood, listening. Morwen brings out a small gong and begins to chant while striking it with gold mallet. Rintikk goes deeper. Her fingers sink into the wood up to the first joint. She sorts frightened voices from secretive.
(Excellent)

"Where'd those devils go off to now?"
(Don’t know who said this)

"D'you think they'll pay for 'em?"
(Don’t know who said this)
(At this point my confusion is settled on this being what Rintikk hears.)

The pirate ship lowers its boats. Many crewmen join Morwen's prayer. They sing louder the closer the pirates come, then go silent at the splash of oars, the thump of wood, and the scrape of boots scaling the boarding nets.
(Excellent)

Pirates pour onto the Kestrel’s deck, shouting and swearing, swords and pistols ready. Seeing the crew standing in sullen lines, they signal below. Their leader climbs onto the ship like a mountain, and takes in the scene with cruel eyes.

The Kestrel's captain steps forward, hat under his arm. "I am --" he begins, but the giant pirate swings a lazy blow that hurls him against a bulwark in a broken heap.
(Think you meant bulkhead?)

"I speak!" the giant roars. "I command! This ship, you men, you belong to me!" He rushes the Kestrel's crew, who stumble back, cringing with fear, then plants his hands on his hips and laughs.
(Second sentence switches focus several times, almost (but not technically) a change in grammatical subject, which is risky and robs the opportunity to exploit short, choppy sentences which, they say, accelerate pacing and energy. Redundant and unneeded words here: cringing + fear, plants + hands on hips, and you could get rid of “Kestrel’s crew” and use “them” since we’re in their POV.)

Rintikk is the Kestrel. The keel is her spine, the braces her ribs, the deck and planks her skin. It's her deck the pirates are fouling.
(Interesting)

Morwen starts toward the Kestrel's injured captain, but the giant blocks her way. She is as small compared to him as the greenfolk are to her, but anger fills her. "Let me pass! I am a priestess --" Again the pirate moves before the words are finished. He wraps one hand around her neck and plucks her from the deck, her feet flailing.
(The “Again the pirate…” sentence can be deleted, and a “But” inserted in the next, which could be merged with the one after that to achieve same thing, save words for other things: "But the pirate plucks her from the deck by her neck. Her feet flail.")


"I speak!" he laughs, wagging a finger in her face. He carries Morwen to the rail, displaying her to the Kestrel's horrified crew. "See me, weaklings!  Would I kill a goddess-sworn? Would I kill a woman?" He holds the struggling priestess easily out over the water. "No! That would be bad." He opens his hand and she drops. "I let the sharks do it!" Morwen strikes the water; her heavy robes fill and pull her under.

Lafttak doesn't think. He leaps. The sea rushes up, then he's down in the depths. Where is she? Where - there. He kicks deeper, faster.
(Great action and staccato sentences. The second “where” could be exchanged for an exclamation point “There!”)

"What was that?" yells the giant, sweeping the crew with a look that promises pain.
(Question is confusing – did he mean “who was that?” or did he not see and only hear a splash, or what? I like the language "promises pain" a lot)

"One of them greenfolk," cries a Kestrel crewman. Another cry goes up. "There's the other one up there!" They're suddenly relieved to have the giant looking at something, anything, else.
(The final sentence is jarring because we’re being put into a new POV without warning. A tag or restructure would fix)

Rintikk is puzzling through the nails and oakum that bind the Kestrel together. The giant's steps move toward the mainmast. This worries her for some reason. Where is Lafttak?
(Mainmast is unclear – is this toward her? If so, that’s what’s key. Worry should be explained, as being puzzled seems discordant with it)

He is clawing his way to the surface, dragging the priestess, lungs bursting, head ringing. Idiot, he thinks. Idiot. He breaks the waves and gulps air before Morwen's weight pulls him down again. In desperation, he reaches for the deadwood of the ship and pulls on it until his scrabbling fingers find the bottom strand of the boarding net. He is struggling to haul up the priestess when Rintikk's voice finds him.
(In order for self-incrimination to be consistent with desperation trying to save a drowning woman, I think exclamation points are called for)

-Lafttak?-

The giant sends a pirate to pull Rintikk down from the rigging. "Why, it's a just wee girl!" he calls.

"Not a girl!" says a crewman. "Look at those ears."

"Goddess!" cries the man. "Her hands! They're stuck inside the mast. I mean, right up to the wrists!"

My hands? thinks Rintikk distantly. Oh yes. I pushed them in to see better.

"Who cares about her hands?" calls the giant. "She's not going to need them where I can sell her."

-Lafttak?-

-Rintikk, I need you. I can't pull her up-

-Beloved?-

-Rintikk!-

The pirate brings out a jagged rigging knife. "Well, fetch the sawbones then. He's gonna have to tie off the stumps."

As the knife cuts, Rintikk opens the Kestrel's woody skin. Water gushes in while living boards pull the net and two bodies inside, then seal themselves with suddenly sprouting branches.

Rintikk's connection with her body breaks as skin and bone fall away.

The Kestrel screams.

Lafttak checks Morwen, who is somehow spluttering and alive. The ship trembles around him. Heart pounding, he pushes through waist-high water to the ladder that connects to the ship's upper deck.  He bursts into the clean air of day, his eyes going up to where he left Rintikk. The mast, crosstree and course sail are sheathed in blood, but Rintikk is gone.

-Lafttak- says the ship.

The deck is strangely peaceful. Thirty pirates are swimming back to their ship, and their giant captain swings gently from a thick rope of vines growing from a boom over his head.

Lafttak notices none of it. All he sees is the still form of his darling, his wife, his Rintikk, resting on a bed of fresh, green heather.

-Lafttak- says the ship. -I think I made a mistake-  (This incredible moment is dulled by “I think” which carries a lighthearted connotation. This is a dramatic moment and the final sequencing leading up to it was excellent. This is by far my biggest critique point, the rest is just minor stuff. It seems like you might have sensed the dramatic weight and dulled the knife, so to speak. I'd have recommended you lean into it. Remarkable amount of sympathy here for such a short story, and a true "what have I done?" moment)
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 The Gem Cutter

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2016, 04:41:53 AM »
I'll give some feedback once I'm actually awake.

I felt my entry was a bit weak this month, but couldn't decide why. Would appreciate any critiques.  :)

Here's my critique, Alex, hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:

As ever, my critique is offered with respect. I am hilarious in person (ask anyone) but my writing is not funny, so don't ever think I read this thinking "I can do better", because I totally can't.

My critique style is different, and no doubt universally despised. I look for 4 things: clarity, brevity, consistency (the text with expectations of audience and itself), and whether the text is compelling.

Your clarity was great - little to no confusion, and I tend to split hairs. Always knew who said what, who did what, when, etc.

Your story was compelling, because you can write humor. I cannot, so I salute you for that. Your voices were funny and in-character without being silly. The situation was very Princess Bride and I enjoyed it. Again, something I cannot do, so good on ya.

Your brevity could be greatly improved. This is the elephant in the room that makes doing the other three things really hard when you have only 1500 words. The text had redundant words, unneeded words, and you (in some spots) both showed and told things, which is inefficient. This is not as harsh as it sounds - you do not ramble. But short forms demand a word-by-word discipline that really enables you the space to do other things.

Your consistency (perhaps due to lack of space?) was dodgy in that you go down some roads but don't seem to get what you went there to get, so to speak.

- The star of this show is the First Mate, with the Captain playing Straight Man, so you use a classic form that suits your purpose well - and you pull it off at the "tactical" levels throughout, but the overall structure seemed less honed.

- The first issue was the abrupt, no-punchline end to the tale of the farmhouse.

- The part when they go through the list of terrible things they could do is where the structure sort of collapsed on itself.

- The weight of the problem described in the beginning (head on a block) evaporates with the decision to just toss the guy in the sea.

- You don't determine whether the guy is the Patriarch or not. This is probably the biggest issue, because it's an obvious reader question, and arguably the biggest in the story, right after "what's going to happen?", and in the nature of story questions, it drives that answer. Without it, we don't know how the story should end.

Hope this is helpful, and thanks for a funny story. Just the idea of writing humor scares the bejeesus out of me.

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 Alex Hormann

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2016, 12:10:55 PM »
I'll give some feedback once I'm actually awake.

I felt my entry was a bit weak this month, but couldn't decide why. Would appreciate any critiques.  :)

Here's my critique, Alex, hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:

As ever, my critique is offered with respect. I am hilarious in person (ask anyone) but my writing is not funny, so don't ever think I read this thinking "I can do better", because I totally can't.

My critique style is different, and no doubt universally despised. I look for 4 things: clarity, brevity, consistency (the text with expectations of audience and itself), and whether the text is compelling.

Your clarity was great - little to no confusion, and I tend to split hairs. Always knew who said what, who did what, when, etc.

Your story was compelling, because you can write humor. I cannot, so I salute you for that. Your voices were funny and in-character without being silly. The situation was very Princess Bride and I enjoyed it. Again, something I cannot do, so good on ya.

Your brevity could be greatly improved. This is the elephant in the room that makes doing the other three things really hard when you have only 1500 words. The text had redundant words, unneeded words, and you (in some spots) both showed and told things, which is inefficient. This is not as harsh as it sounds - you do not ramble. But short forms demand a word-by-word discipline that really enables you the space to do other things.

Your consistency (perhaps due to lack of space?) was dodgy in that you go down some roads but don't seem to get what you went there to get, so to speak.

- The star of this show is the First Mate, with the Captain playing Straight Man, so you use a classic form that suits your purpose well - and you pull it off at the "tactical" levels throughout, but the overall structure seemed less honed.

- The first issue was the abrupt, no-punchline end to the tale of the farmhouse.

- The part when they go through the list of terrible things they could do is where the structure sort of collapsed on itself.

- The weight of the problem described in the beginning (head on a block) evaporates with the decision to just toss the guy in the sea.

- You don't determine whether the guy is the Patriarch or not. This is probably the biggest issue, because it's an obvious reader question, and arguably the biggest in the story, right after "what's going to happen?", and in the nature of story questions, it drives that answer. Without it, we don't know how the story should end.

Hope this is helpful, and thanks for a funny story. Just the idea of writing humor scares the bejeesus out of me.


Thanks @Gem_Cutter. Definitely hit the nail on the head about resolution issues. Glad the humour worked for you.

Offline Osahon

Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2016, 12:22:18 PM »
Also interested in feedback for my story, Friendly Fire

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2016, 12:30:48 PM »
Critique of Greenship, for @Jmack

Hope it's useful.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Something Awesome
Firstly I'd like to say that I've never read Liveship Traders, but the magical use of wood in Greenship immediately made me think of things I've heard about Robin Hobb. I thought the livewood/deadwood idea, and varying levels of power between Lafftak and Rintikk, were a great idea. I can easily see that aspect of the world being expanded on.

Something Boring
Nothing to say here. I was always interested in reading.

Something Confusing
There is a fair bit of head-hopping in this between Lafftak and Rintikk. In the paragraph starting, 'Belowdecks, Rintikk startles awake' I initially thought it was still Lafftak's PoV, and that he was somehow watching her.

Something Unbelievable
When Morwen is thrown overboard, her clothes are heavy enough to drag her down. Laffatk pulls her back to the surface. However, I wondered if a Greenfolk would have the strength to rescue her, given that Rintikk was mistaken for a 'wee girl'. I'd pictured them as looking a bit like hobbits.


Offline SugoiMe

Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2016, 02:54:09 PM »
Throwing Rule of the Curse up here for people to tear apart. I'm going to get to giving feedback for you guys this weekend (or sooner if I can get a break from work).
"And then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2016, 03:07:31 PM »
Also interested in feedback for my story, Friendly Fire

Here's my critique of Friendly Fire, hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:
As ever, my critique is offered with respect. My critique style is different, and no doubt universally despised. I look for 4 things: clarity, brevity, consistency (the text with expectations of audience and itself), and whether the text is compelling.

Brevity: Your story was efficient and smooth and didn't lag, so no issues here IMHO.

Clarity: Your clarity was near-perfect in the normal sense of "what is happening." I was never confused even though I am hyper-sensitive to ambiguities in this area. However, in terms of "when it is happening" things were less clear. The present tense has some wrinkles, and you were unclear as to which present tense you were using: simple, progressive, etc. This is a natural weakness of English, which relies on verb choice to prevent ambiguities. For example: "I am going to school" could mean I am in the car headed to class right now, or it could mean that I am taking classes even though I am on a plane to Memphis for a funeral at the moment, or despite it's grammatical tense, it could even mean the future.

Compelling: Thematically, your story was compelling to me, because I am at that age where I would hand things off to my sons, and I understand/appreciate the idea of adopting people we meet in life as surrogate family members, so I identified with the MC, and liked the story you set out to tell from the start.

In execution, the compelling aspect became lost to me in the tense and 2nd person POV, which I found forced. I despise present tense, so I approached it as I did Jmack's. This is simply a matter of my taste, not your writing skill, and I respect your willingness to go into an unconventional tense and POV.

Consistency: This story presented issues I've never really examined before, and I am unsure whether they are related to clarity or self-consistency, but I put them here.

2nd person/present is a true departure that requires one to completely adjust their story-telling approach - not just the grammar and related mechanics, but the focus must also be shifted, and it felt like a 3rd POV/past tense story approach that had been converted to 2nd/present. I think I am trying to say the structure was inconsistent with the tense/POV choice.

One weakness of this style is exemplified in this line: "You wonder why you doubt yourself now,  when you were so sure weeks ago."  This is an adaptation of something that works in 3rd and 1st Person, but not at all in 2nd IMHO: the reporting of an emotion, thought, reaction, etc.   In 1st and 3rd POV, we can and must accept that the character feels the emotion, but in 2nd we might think "No I don't", and even if we do not reject the premise, we cannot really accept it because it's us and we weren't until you told us.

This example is intense because the first sentence does it twice - we're told we are wondering and that we are doubting. Paring off one or both of these would help, leaving with just the concept of lack of confidence - something more easily acceptable, if you follow me: "Little of your confidence remains after weeks of ..."

Present tense is supposed to lock the reader into a scrolling "now" that moves along, but verb ambiguity (partly due to the issues with English present tense verbs) blurred things. Tricky.

The 6th paragraph has a slip into future tense, and marks what feels like a transition into the "now": "The crew will raid [future] more ships when you leave. You have become weak and old [past tense], your bones [grammatically present tense, or implied that it's also past tense like the previous clause?] too brittle for the waters. You sigh and walk out of your chambers to face your crew."

The story was concise, and very efficient. I found the twist at the end to be surprising and impactful - and liked that despite the narrator's closeness to Jonah, s/he was surprised.

I do not know if there's any way around the repetition of "You + verb" sentence beginnings.

Apologies on the length and convoluted feedback, but tense is tough to tackle and things get muddled. I enjoyed the story, and didn't consciously experience much of the stuff this critique mentions until I really looked at it. Rough stuff, this 2nd POV/Present thing.
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 Osahon

Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2016, 04:40:18 PM »
Also interested in feedback for my story, Friendly Fire

Here's my critique of Friendly Fire, hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:
As ever, my critique is offered with respect. My critique style is different, and no doubt universally despised. I look for 4 things: clarity, brevity, consistency (the text with expectations of audience and itself), and whether the text is compelling.

Brevity: Your story was efficient and smooth and didn't lag, so no issues here IMHO.

Clarity: Your clarity was near-perfect in the normal sense of "what is happening." I was never confused even though I am hyper-sensitive to ambiguities in this area. However, in terms of "when it is happening" things were less clear. The present tense has some wrinkles, and you were unclear as to which present tense you were using: simple, progressive, etc. This is a natural weakness of English, which relies on verb choice to prevent ambiguities. For example: "I am going to school" could mean I am in the car headed to class right now, or it could mean that I am taking classes even though I am on a plane to Memphis for a funeral at the moment, or despite it's grammatical tense, it could even mean the future.

Compelling: Thematically, your story was compelling to me, because I am at that age where I would hand things off to my sons, and I understand/appreciate the idea of adopting people we meet in life as surrogate family members, so I identified with the MC, and liked the story you set out to tell from the start.

In execution, the compelling aspect became lost to me in the tense and 2nd person POV, which I found forced. I despise present tense, so I approached it as I did Jmack's. This is simply a matter of my taste, not your writing skill, and I respect your willingness to go into an unconventional tense and POV.

Consistency: This story presented issues I've never really examined before, and I am unsure whether they are related to clarity or self-consistency, but I put them here.

2nd person/present is a true departure that requires one to completely adjust their story-telling approach - not just the grammar and related mechanics, but the focus must also be shifted, and it felt like a 3rd POV/past tense story approach that had been converted to 2nd/present. I think I am trying to say the structure was inconsistent with the tense/POV choice.

One weakness of this style is exemplified in this line: "You wonder why you doubt yourself now,  when you were so sure weeks ago."  This is an adaptation of something that works in 3rd and 1st Person, but not at all in 2nd IMHO: the reporting of an emotion, thought, reaction, etc.   In 1st and 3rd POV, we can and must accept that the character feels the emotion, but in 2nd we might think "No I don't", and even if we do not reject the premise, we cannot really accept it because it's us and we weren't until you told us.

This example is intense because the first sentence does it twice - we're told we are wondering and that we are doubting. Paring off one or both of these would help, leaving with just the concept of lack of confidence - something more easily acceptable, if you follow me: "Little of your confidence remains after weeks of ..."

Present tense is supposed to lock the reader into a scrolling "now" that moves along, but verb ambiguity (partly due to the issues with English present tense verbs) blurred things. Tricky.

The 6th paragraph has a slip into future tense, and marks what feels like a transition into the "now": "The crew will raid [future] more ships when you leave. You have become weak and old [past tense], your bones [grammatically present tense, or implied that it's also past tense like the previous clause?] too brittle for the waters. You sigh and walk out of your chambers to face your crew."

The story was concise, and very efficient. I found the twist at the end to be surprising and impactful - and liked that despite the narrator's closeness to Jonah, s/he was surprised.

I do not know if there's any way around the repetition of "You + verb" sentence beginnings.

Apologies on the length and convoluted feedback, but tense is tough to tackle and things get muddled. I enjoyed the story, and didn't consciously experience much of the stuff this critique mentions until I really looked at it. Rough stuff, this 2nd POV/Present thing.
Wow! Thank you so much! I really appreciated this! ;D

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2016, 06:08:35 PM »
Throwing Rule of the Curse up here for people to tear apart. I'm going to get to giving feedback for you guys this weekend (or sooner if I can get a break from work).


Here's my critique, but it's not meant to be a tear down  ;D
Spoiler for Hiden:
As always, this critique is offered with respect.

I focus on how clear, concise, compelling, and consistent a story is. For yours, I deviate from my normal approach because I found your story to be clear, concise, and consistent with itself for the most part. The writing itself is very good. I was never lost in the dialogue or events. My suggestions for improvement all lie in the decisions behind the writing, some of which I think were inconsistent with expectations or other decisions, and the result eroded how compelling the story was overall, at least for me.

- The one "clarity" issue I had was that there is no description of setting early, and the impact of that was exaggerated by an unusual choice - the mixture of space and wooden pirate ship motifs. It's a lot of suspension of disbelief to ask, and IMHO if you want the audience to accept that people are in wooden ships requiring deck scrubbing in space, you have to lay those cards on the table. Without some visual and narrative guide to make this leap easier, I thought I was missing something, and I had to wonder "Are they wearing space suits? What's with the scrubbing?"

One could argue that it's tough to mix wooden ships, space, and death-foretelling powers AND play everything straight. The old film Time Bandits mixed odd things like this, but was obviously tongue-in-cheek, and without that, it would be tough to 'get.'

But don't get me wrong - I enjoyed mixture of space and pirates (it's inherently cool). The premise of seeing deaths was neat, and I enjoyed that, too.

The choices I second-guessed were the execution discussion, etc., which I found inconsistent with the initial parts of the story which were played straight. The comments about an execution being entertaining were too casual to be viewed as being played straight, for me.

Your use of action and dialogue at the beginning of the pirate attack worked very well. Your stage direction was strong and captivating. The exposition of Zeher's background was a little cheesy and obvious, but not a mortal sin. I think you might have worked that in a little better.

The melee itself was a little wonky in some spots, but overall, it worked.

I also liked the way things worked out with Zeher being like the MC.

Hope this was 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 SugoiMe

Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2016, 06:43:43 PM »
Throwing Rule of the Curse up here for people to tear apart. I'm going to get to giving feedback for you guys this weekend (or sooner if I can get a break from work).


Here's my critique, but it's not meant to be a tear down  ;D
Spoiler for Hiden:
As always, this critique is offered with respect.

I focus on how clear, concise, compelling, and consistent a story is. For yours, I deviate from my normal approach because I found your story to be clear, concise, and consistent with itself for the most part. The writing itself is very good. I was never lost in the dialogue or events. My suggestions for improvement all lie in the decisions behind the writing, some of which I think were inconsistent with expectations or other decisions, and the result eroded how compelling the story was overall, at least for me.

- The one "clarity" issue I had was that there is no description of setting early, and the impact of that was exaggerated by an unusual choice - the mixture of space and wooden pirate ship motifs. It's a lot of suspension of disbelief to ask, and IMHO if you want the audience to accept that people are in wooden ships requiring deck scrubbing in space, you have to lay those cards on the table. Without some visual and narrative guide to make this leap easier, I thought I was missing something, and I had to wonder "Are they wearing space suits? What's with the scrubbing?"

One could argue that it's tough to mix wooden ships, space, and death-foretelling powers AND play everything straight. The old film Time Bandits mixed odd things like this, but was obviously tongue-in-cheek, and without that, it would be tough to 'get.'

But don't get me wrong - I enjoyed mixture of space and pirates (it's inherently cool). The premise of seeing deaths was neat, and I enjoyed that, too.

The choices I second-guessed were the execution discussion, etc., which I found inconsistent with the initial parts of the story which were played straight. The comments about an execution being entertaining were too casual to be viewed as being played straight, for me.

Your use of action and dialogue at the beginning of the pirate attack worked very well. Your stage direction was strong and captivating. The exposition of Zeher's background was a little cheesy and obvious, but not a mortal sin. I think you might have worked that in a little better.

The melee itself was a little wonky in some spots, but overall, it worked.

I also liked the way things worked out with Zeher being like the MC.

Hope this was helpful!

Love it, @Gem_Cutter thanks! Given more words, I definitely would have put more description in there. I agree with a lot of what you said. It's a real challenge to cram so many ideas into one little story, so I had to sacrifice a lot to put what I wanted in there.

All your comments are super helpful. Thank you.
"And then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin