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Fantasy Faction Writers => Monthly Writing Contest => [SEP 2016] Pirates! => Topic started by: night_wrtr on November 01, 2016, 11:47:05 PM

Title: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr 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. (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/monthly-writing-contest/critique-thread-discussion-andor-suggestions/)
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: JMack on November 02, 2016, 12:22:54 AM
 Very interested in feedback on Greenship.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko 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!)

- 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.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr on November 02, 2016, 01:12:08 AM
Greenship by @Jmack

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.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Alex Hormann 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.  :)
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter on November 02, 2016, 03:22:59 AM
Very interested in feedback on Greenship.
My critique of Greenship. Hope it is helpful.

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)
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter 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.


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.

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Alex Hormann 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.


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.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Osahon on November 02, 2016, 12:22:18 PM
Also interested in feedback for my story, Friendly Fire
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Alex Hormann on November 02, 2016, 12:30:48 PM
Critique of Greenship, for @Jmack

Hope it's useful.

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.

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: SugoiMe 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).
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter 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.

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.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Osahon 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.

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
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter 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
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!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: SugoiMe 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
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.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr on November 02, 2016, 07:09:28 PM
@Lanko

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?

Can I just say "what you said?" There was a lot going on as you mentioned, but I liked the part where she duels the Captain, then wins them over with "millions of marks" and they all relax and smile. xD

@Osahon

@Gem_Cutter  made some good points on tense/POV. So I agree there.

I do think that the story would have benefited from a higher wordcount to add more buildup for the twist at the end. It was a quick buildup and a quicker ending.  You got my vote because I liked what you were doing and I liked the twist. You nailed the theme very well and I liked the description. The seeing yourself in the mirror was a minor quarrel, though. Maybe he reached up and felt them, remembering where each scar came from? Could even go into a few details of them that would have added more depth to that character. A little more set up or expansion on Jonah's plans would have been interesting too.


@Alex Hormann

Something Awesome:
"Iruep Vaket first realised his head was destined for the chopping block when his crew told him they'd accidentally kidnapped the Patriarch of Eroa."
 xD This might have been my favorite first line of the whole month. The whole feel to the story and premise hooked me early. Noke's character shined as it was hilarious to see him unfold what happened.

Something Boring:
Nothing boring, but I started getting worried as Noke's retelling took up most of the story that the ending was going to be quick.

Something Confusing:/Something Unbelievable:
After seeing Noke in this story, why the hell is he Iruep's First Mate??  ;D

The decision to throw the guy overboard left me a little unsatisfied. What it him or not? - that was part of my anticipation as I read. It starts off with the Captain and his crew in a pickle, which has suspense and anticipation for how they get out of it. Then I see the Captain shrug and "its God's problem." Thought it deflated right at the end after the build up from the first sentence.

@SugoiMe

Something Awesome:
Got my first vote! The opening paragraph made me grin so wide when I realized this was going to be space pirates.
"It's not that Dawson saw people’s futures. He just saw how they were going to die."
Love it. High stakes right from the beginning as Dawson is caught and headed for execution. Then the pirate attack brought in the action, and THEN we learn that Zeher was like Dawson! The Rule of the Curse!

1499 words left no room for little descriptive details here and there, but overall everything worked for me and I really enjoyed reading. Great story!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 02, 2016, 08:08:50 PM
Can I just say "what you said?"

No. I want my critique card too  ::)
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr on November 02, 2016, 09:00:53 PM
Can I just say "what you said?"

No. I want my critique card too  ::)

 ::)  8) @Lanko
Something Awesome:

Underwater world gets crushed by the sea. Okay super cool Atlantis type thing going on. Talking rings are a nice magic idea for married folk. I could totally use that in real life. Nice set up for Joshua being under the rubble of the coliseum waiting rescue.

I want to know more about this crab named Clark.

“Pirate, revolutionary and queen. Did I miss anything?,” asked Joshua.

“Master fencer,” she replied slashing the air.


A lot of cool in this story.

Something Boring:
Hell no.

Something Confusing:

Who is “they” in the early beginning? At first I thought it was her and Joshua, then I realized he was in the rubble. The wizard saved them, then collapses. Who is he and if he could do a force bubble, could they not just make small force bubbles up and down to carry people to safety? The architect is executed because the coliseum was destroyed? That sucks, is he in charge of the things that protect the city/place from the sea? (I get that later when she talks to the wizard chief). I want to know more about this underwater world and the circumstances that comes about that causes its collapse.

She rushes to the castle, but then there is no rescue. Who said that and why and did she slap them? Why does the force tunnel cost so much money and is that what feeds the magic system? Lannaria just survives the collapse, then becomes a pirate. This scene belongs in the something awesome section, but how does she know how to fight and what is her background. I don’t know the MC yet, but she’s obviously awesome.

What is the timeline between taking over the pirate ship and then the attack on the enemy ship? Two years!?! :-O Lanko!

Her father shows up. They fight, then he gives her an inheritance of 5 million marks. Did she know he had money? Why didnt she try him first? Could she have persuaded him to join a coup to take over the throne before she went pirate?

I want to know what Joshua’s book was about.

This was a novel in 1500 words. Turn this into 150,000 words!

Something Unbelievable:

What has Joshua and other survivors been doing for two/three years!?!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: ScarletBea on November 02, 2016, 10:13:57 PM
^ agree with everything you said, I want to read that long story :D
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 03, 2016, 12:38:05 AM
Thanks, @night_wrtr!

For Greenship, by @Jmack:


Something Awesome: I loved Rintikk and Laftakk. They were pretty cool elves and the mention of her eartips endearing.

The magic was damn cool as well, fusing with an object and pretty much becoming it. There were some great descriptions.

When they cut off her hands I was like "What? No way, no way". Fuckers. How dare they hurt Rintikk?

The pirate leader and the priestess interaction was funny as well ("I don't kill, I let the sharks do it!").

If it wasn't obvious, I voted for it  ::)

Something Boring: ---

Something Confusing: ---

Something Unbelievable: ---


For Crisis of Faith, by @Alex Hormann


Something Awesome: Humorous, but a bit too silly for my taste. When they think about all the effort of torturing and killing the guy was the best part. As a sidenote, I voted for you on almost all previous months for your dark stuff  ::)

Something Boring: I think it lacked a bit more action or something at stake. They just talk to each other.

Something Confusing: I didn't understand why they were so upset about the situation. If it was the Patriarch, they would be set for life, if it wasn't they could just dispose of the guy, but I thought it was overly dramatic, even if it was for comedy effect.

Something Unbelievable: ---

Extra: Maybe they could try to ask for a ransom for the guy, the city/kingdom believes and are scared shitless, then everything is paid or in the middle of it both sides realize it's not the Patriarch and everyone have been tricked. It would allow to maintain the comedy aspect while having a little more action/different situation. 

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Alex Hormann on November 03, 2016, 12:44:57 AM
Thanks @Lanko. And don't worry, I'll be back to the darkness for the 1750.  ;D
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter on November 03, 2016, 01:43:11 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?

Overall, I do not think there was any issue related to this plotline over that - they were all threads in the same carpet, reinforcing each other. As others have pointed out, I don't know how you managed to get so much good story in such a small space - a tempest in a teacup for sure. Taking one of your threads out would leave a gap, or you know my obsession with brevity would take over and I'd point to one.

The premises were all good and different, and you pulled them all off very well.

My critique, such as it is:
First, trying to find a way to make this better is a helluva thing. The only thing I think I could share that would be helpful is some examples of trimming without loss of context or meaning. Maybe. Perhaps it would yield enough space (one or two words at a time) for a word or two more in places where you wanted them? Seriously, this was damn fine story, but you've been a faithful reviewer of my stuff, so here goes. Tiny additions to make pruning correct are underlined.

   They reached the surface minutes later and were rescued by a ship. The wizard who brought them back collapsed. She Lannaria was very lucky to be near him when the barrier spells failed and the windowed walls shattered under the pressure of the sea.
(wasn't sure of the wizard's gender)

Instead, it made him a laughing stock among other rulers and this was unforgivable. (this stuff is inferred by laughing stock, and his reaction)
   
   She rushed to the castle, as did with many others. There were survivors still in the coliseum, those married communicated with their marriage rings.
   But there would be no a rescue attempt so deep was just too dangerous and expensive. The coliseum sunk deeply. It. The remaining barriers still working could fail at any moment. Or the survivors might starve to death.

   “That’s ten million marks, Lady Lannaria. But after the coliseum this fiasco we need to review our spells and rituals.”
   Lanny returned home outraged. Specially when she heard the king just spent millions on imported beverages. And That money could be used to— rescuing the people trapped in his vanity project?!
 
   “Who is this chick are you?” asked the captain.

   She saw an opening and lunged, woundinged him in the shoulder. and another slash sent his sword flying on the water. (Some consider a participial phrase to be reserved for simultaneous action, not sequential action as is here and changing saved you a word)
   “Glory and fame awaits us!” she said. (excl. point usually deserves a loud verb)
   Everyone unsheathed their swords. Against her. (loved this)
   “I… I need intelligent and strong manly men like you!”
   Everyone had death on their faces.
   “It… it involves millions of marks!”
   Everyone relaxed and smiled. (brilliant)

   *

   The pirates accepted Lanny’s plan, but mocked her as captain. She knew nothing about the sea. They brought a chicken on board and put a mask on it. Soon enough they were calling her Red Chicken, because of her hair.

   She took the joke with grace instead of anger, gaining some sympathy. At the moment of the attack, she ordered the former captain to initiate it by throwing an egg on the enemy ship.
       
   The king’s selection of drinks exotic liquors amassed a fortune on the black market. After her crew’s share - more generous than the former captain’s - she made one million marks for herself.

   Using her privileged position, she discovered many ships with cargo that interested the king (but not the kingdom) and focused on them.   

   But in two years, Lanny “only” made five million marks. The Red Chicken was no longer a mockery, her name feared throughout the coast. But her objective was still remained very far.

   She decided to speed the rescue process things and sailed to assaulted a massive cargo of surprisingly unprotected gold that was .

   Only when arrows landed on the deck and both ships collided she realized the trap. It was no gold cargo. It was the Navy. And Lanny was confronted by the general himself. (admiral?)

     “I knew you wouldn’t resist this bait… Red Chicken.” He spat at her feet. “It’s time to die now, bitch.”

I'll stop here - you see what I'm doing. It's not clever or even important, and the gains are small, but do add up. There's probably enough by now for a handful of extra lines in case there were things you wanted to say but ran out of space.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: JMack on November 03, 2016, 12:23:46 PM
Thanks to @Lanko, @Alex Hormann , @Gem_Cutter and did I miss anyone? For your reviews. This is one of the few shorts I've written where I want to go back and do a full re-write taking into account all the great comments. GC, I think I'll take a swipe at a past tense version and see if I feel the same intensity I felt when writing in present.

One lesson for everyone, and it's familiar words here:
Kill your darlings.

> I needed to get rid of the conversations Rinttik hears among the Kestrel's crew, and which everyone found confusing.
> I could have taken out the "Lafttak and Rinttik fled from the palacae" stuff. I was horribly concerned with people wondering how the greenfolk got on the ship in the first place. And since I knew the "novel-length" concept for the story, I kept it in.

Now, I have a question for everyone about something that people comment on in my writing quite a bit. When I write dialogue, I try whenever possible to avoid tags: "Rinttik asked", "yelled Morwen", etc. I rely on punctuation and sequence.

Example (not from the story):

Quote
Hillary laughed, and pointed the gun at the mole in the center of her opponent's forehead. "Did you really think we would let you win, Donald? This is the Illuminti you're fucking with, you idiot."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Try me."

"You are such a nasty woman."

"People want a nasty woman. They just don't know it yet."

OK, so when I write things like this (well, sort of like this), folks tell me they don't know who is speaking when. But it's always obvious to me: The first dialogue elemnt follows an action identified with Hillary, and in the same paragraph. It's Hillary speaking. The next dialogue element is in a separate paragraph, and the prior element ended with a full quote ("), not a single quote ('). Therefore, it's Donald, the only other person mentioned in the scene. Finally, his dialogue ends with a full quote, and the next element is in a new paragraph. There's only one other person in the scene, so it's Hillary again. Etc.

Maybe this example is too obvious, but this happens pretty regularly when people read my dialogue. Can anyone help me understand this better?
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter on November 03, 2016, 02:03:19 PM
Maybe this example is too obvious, but this happens pretty regularly when people read my dialogue. Can anyone help me understand this better?

Couple suggestions:
- Dialogue tags and other clues do several things beyond attributing speech and actions. For one, they direct the reader's mental cameraman.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In your story there was the first moment of telepathy and my comment pinged on this very thing, but not clearly - because like a lot of readers, I didn't see the parts, only the problem - which is I dunno who said what, and also, I dunno who I should be looking at, even if I know who produced the words. It took me a minute just now to figure out why I had an issue:

Morwen smiles. “You don’t think much of my goddess. But she thinks much of you." Then she frowns. "Look west.” (I am looking at Morwen standing beside a prone Rintikk.)

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. (I imagine Rintikk in the hold, but have forgotten where her boy-toy is)

-Beloved?-  (I don't know if this is the voice mentioned above (Rintikk to Laftak) - OR HIS REPLY TO HER SUMMONS WHICH WAS IMPLIED, OR THE MENTAL VERSION OF NON-VERBAL, OR IS THE LINK SOMETHING HE'S AWARE OF WITHOUT WORDS NEEDED?)

-Heh. You missed me- (THIS IS ALSO ambiguous, it could be her playing at his preoccupation, which has been shown)

-Quiet, idiot. Go higher. Look west- (Now it is clear who's who)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Avoidance of tags is misplaced IMHO, as they're invisible 90% time, if you use say and ask as a rule. Rather, emphasize brevity by removing everything, including tags, that can be removed without any doubt about who said it, with an eye to moving the reader's eye, and tracking whether we are looking at one thing and hearing/responding to another - like watching Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star, but hearing Ben Kenobi in his ear.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: tebakutis on November 03, 2016, 05:10:10 PM
OK, so when I write things like this (well, sort of like this), folks tell me they don't know who is speaking when. But it's always obvious to me: The first dialogue elemnt follows an action identified with Hillary, and in the same paragraph. It's Hillary speaking. The next dialogue element is in a separate paragraph, and the prior element ended with a full quote ("), not a single quote ('). Therefore, it's Donald, the only other person mentioned in the scene. Finally, his dialogue ends with a full quote, and the next element is in a new paragraph. There's only one other person in the scene, so it's Hillary again. Etc.

Maybe this example is too obvious, but this happens pretty regularly when people read my dialogue. Can anyone help me understand this better?

What you wrote is obvious to me as well. How you've formatted things is how I see dialogue presented in most of the stuff I read and write. Honestly, I'm not sure why people are getting confused.

The only tip I could offer is maybe to establish both Speaker A and Speaker B (you might remember I did a blog post on this awhile back). So just change the opening to:

Quote
Hillary laughed, and pointed the gun at the mole in the center of her opponent's forehead. "Did you really think we would let you win, Donald? This is the Illuminti you're fucking with, you idiot."

"You wouldn't dare," Donald said.

"Try me."

But honestly, your first example is clear as crystal to me as a reader. I'm not sure why anyone would have trouble knowing who was speaking.

Avoidance of tags is misplaced IMHO, as they're invisible 90% time, if you use say and ask as a rule. Rather, emphasize brevity by removing everything, including tags, that can be removed without any doubt about who said it, with an eye to moving the reader's eye, and tracking whether we are looking at one thing and hearing/responding to another - like watching Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star, but hearing Ben Kenobi in his ear.

EDIT: Actually, re-reading what you said, Gem, it would be more accurate to say I'm coming at it from a different perspective, rather than disgreeing with you, as the only point we're really differing on is that they're invisible. I do agree with you that you should remove them when they're not needed.

When I'm reading, dialogue tags do slow me down if they're overused, especially in a fast exchange between two characters. I really do feel they're unnecessary in a two person conversation.

Once you've established there are only two characters conversing, and established which one speaks first, dialogue tags are unnecessary. A conversation without them reads and feels cleaner to me, while using a dialogue tag when we already know who's speaking is clunky. It feels like the author is repeating themselves.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: The Gem Cutter on November 03, 2016, 06:13:58 PM
Allow me to clarify, as we're in mostly in agreement Eric. But where we diverge is where Jmack's issue resides.

"I really do feel they're unnecessary in a two person conversation. " In this easiest situation, you're often, but not always right.

"Once you've established there are only two characters conversing, and established which one speaks first, dialogue tags are unnecessary." Not always.

These and other potentially (not always) situations that must be carefully considered before tags are removed/not provided:

- If the topic they're discussing is complex or weighty enough to send the reader down a rabbit hole - something that will take a moment to fully appreciate.
- If someone speaks twice in a row
- If a character quotes a previous conversation (esp. himself, which is worse)
- If a character references someone or something else (scripture, etc.) (even with tags, the he-said/she-saids can become confusing)
- If they are not in the same place/room.
- If there are other characters in the room, even if silent, in the right circumstances (esp. if speakers occasionally talk to the group ((plural "you"))
- If they are the same gender, in some situations

There are probably many more. Hence my caution. So while I don't advocate an endless series of "saids", neither do I advocate chunks of unattributed dialogue, whether the attributions arise from tags, stage direction, etc. In other words, if the stretch of dialogue is long enough for "tag-drag", then the dialogue probably needs to be broken up.

"A conversation without them reads and feels cleaner to me, while using a dialogue tag when we already know who's speaking is clunky. It feels like the author is repeating themselves."

This is partly a matter of taste. You're operating on assumption, which often works, which is why assumption exists.

But consider, the issues you describe are, by definition, excluded from your assertion: of course, if we know who's speaking, tags are unneeded. The issue is situations when we don't know who is speaking. Then, clearly, they're needed. The issues we are discussing now are those situations when obvious attribution is absent and needed. This outcome is the objective - not the technique.

Jmack has said he has issues of clarity arising from multiple readers.

My position is that clarity must come first. If the text is confusing, the story stops in the reader's mind while s/he sorts it out. "Stopped" is slower than "clunky", so my advice is to achieve clarity, and then carefully trim things back, tags included, until it's as brief, clean, and smooth as possible - without damaging or even risking clarity.

I believe most will agree that it is more efficient and effective to work from clarity toward brevity than the reverse. Working from brief to clear is harder than trimming the "reader instructions" where they are unneeded. And Murphy's Law applies in the world of uncertainty of writing - given the choice, would you rather the average line of dialogue be potentially unclear, or include the occasionally unneeded tag?

"I think the answer is clear," Gem Cutter said. "Even if the principals behind it are not."
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 03, 2016, 07:40:22 PM
Maybe he could just include an action beat or two, even if unnecessary to identify who is talking, could add a little more character and also avoid "talking heads" syndrome.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lady Ty on November 03, 2016, 11:40:01 PM
@Jmack
Quote
Now, I have a question for everyone about something that people comment on in my writing quite a bit. When I write dialogue, I try whenever possible to avoid tags: "Rinttik asked", "yelled Morwen", etc. I rely on punctuation and sequence.

Brief comment as a reader, I prefer this style by far and find constant tags annoying and old fashioned. I also dislike the overuse of actual names, it feels like being force fed who they are. The actual nature of each separate sentence in the conversation can define which character is speaking, by style, choice of phrase,individual quirks or similar differentiation, even if only occasional or subtle.

A few of the stories lately have been fully dialogue style and this suits certain stories perfectly, especially where there are elements of humour. Bit biased here because it is the only style I am comfortable to try and write. ;)

A fairly long passage of dialogue can convey action, character traits or plotlines more easily and quickly than a dense paragraph of explanation, but it does need to be broken up with shorter paragraphs to show some points in more detail or to move action elsewhere.

ETA All comments above subject to recognise and agree with practicality of exceptions outlined  by @Gem_Cutter although still prefer a writer found a way to avoid tags as much as possible.


- If the topic they're discussing is complex or weighty enough to send the reader down a rabbit hole - something that will take a moment to fully appreciate.
- If someone speaks twice in a row
- If a character quotes a previous conversation (esp. himself, which is worse)
- If a character references someone or something else (scripture, etc.) (even with tags, the he-said/she-saids can become confusing)
- If they are not in the same place/room.
- If there are other characters in the room, even if silent, in the right circumstances (esp. if speakers occasionally talk to the group ((plural "you"))
- If they are the same gender, in some situations

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 04, 2016, 09:39:04 PM
Some more critiques coming up!

Tales From the Sea: Captain Longbraid and the Purple Kraken, by @night_wrtr:


Something Awesome: That was probably the most creative setting of the whole batch of stories. We can even believe they are real pirates, then see some things a bit off, then suspect something and then it gets 100% confirmed later!

Also, the "pirate language" used was very well done.

Something Boring: ---

Something Confusing: Nothing, really. But for everything they did I thought they were outside the house, but I guess that's more to praise on their imagination  ::)

Something Unbelievable: ---

This may seem a short critique card, but there wasn't anything illogical, wrong or out of place to point out. The only thing the story missed for more "oomph" were more quotable, punchy lines like in your previous one.


Friendly Fire, by @Osahon

Something Awesome: I liked the second person and that the main character was an old man preparing to retire. It looked different he was not a young, kick-ass pirate.

Something Boring: The overuse of the words "you" and "your". I think a lot of them could have been cut and some passages written as inner thoughts and dialogue.

Something Confusing: You begin saying Jonah is the captain's son of the sea and he will make an excellent captain and that his real son was a failure and disgrace. But we see he is too young, the crew is shocked by the prospect he is gonna be captain and even the captain himself starts doubting it. Even if he's pretending. 

Something Unbelievable: While a nice plot twist, it didn't actually make any sense for Jonah to kill the entire crew and ship he had just received on a silver plate.
With three more ships at his command, he would easily establish authority, whether with respect or out of fear. And if he was that good, why pretend he wasn't? That would make the captain and the crew look at him favorably and makes things easier.
The only thing I can think of is that he simply wanted the treasure and killing everyone meant less people to share with, but that also means it was a pretty competent crew he could easily use for more plunder, as he was very young.

Extra: I think your story was posted on the brink of time, just like mine, and you didn't have much time to edit, hence why it repeated so many "you" and "your".

For example, the opening, what could we make with it?

Quote
You look old and tired now. You see your reflection in the mirror and your face is riddled with scars, each one telling a story. You brush your hand over the scar that cuts across your left eye and you never forget the horrors of that day.

You are tired and old, the reflection in the mirror shows a face riddled with scars, each one telling a story. The one that cuts across your left eye a memory from a day too horrible to ever forget.

8 "you/your" reduced to 2.

Quote
You wonder if some members of the crew still don’t understand why you are leaving all you have ever known and you wonder what they think about you. How many curses have they laid upon your head? You see Viros staring at you out of the corners of her eyes, and you wonder if she prayed that the waters would rise against you and swallow you up.

Here you also repeat "wonder" a lot. Let's see how we could change it:

Some members still look puzzled as you walk across the deck. They can't understand why you are leaving behind everything you've ever known. Even Viros is staring out of the corners of her eyes.
How many curses have she laid upon my head, praying for the waters to rise and swallow me up?

11 "you/yours" down to 3. And even removed all the "wonders" by making it an inner thought, so we don't even need it as a tag!

Overall your style is good, I think the only thing that prevented your story from having more "oomph" was lack of time to edit it more, as you posted it on October, 1st.
Heh, I can actually relate to this situation, and I'm curious to see what you will pull off in the next contest!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Osahon on November 04, 2016, 10:24:39 PM
Tales From the Sea: Captain Longbraid and the Purple Kraken, by @night_wrtr:


Something Awesome: That was probably the most creative setting of the whole batch of stories. We can even believe they are real pirates, then see some things a bit off, then suspect something and then it gets 100% confirmed later!

Also, the "pirate language" used was very well done.

Something Boring: ---

Something Confusing: Nothing, really. But for everything they did I thought they were outside the house, but I guess that's more to praise on their imagination  ::)

Something Unbelievable: ---

This may seem a short critique card, but there wasn't anything illogical, wrong or out of place to point out. I guess the only thing that could be added for more "oomph" would be more quotable or punch lines like in your previous story. 


Friendly Fire, by Osahon

Something Awesome: I liked the second person and that the main character was an old man preparing to retire. It looked different he was not a young, kick-ass pirate.

Something Boring: The overuse of the words "you" and "your".

Something Confusing: You begin saying Jonah is the captain's son of the sea and he will make an excellent captain and that his real son was a failure and disgrace.



Thanks @Lanko! I definitely did overdo on the use of "you" and "your." This was my first time ever writing in second person, so I guess you could say I'm still figuring it out :D
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 04, 2016, 10:26:12 PM
May want to read it again, I think the post bugged when I first submitted and it was actually incomplete!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr on November 04, 2016, 11:02:16 PM
Thanks @Lanko! Much appreciated!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 05, 2016, 10:57:36 PM
The last three critiques, at least until someone else requests one  ::)

And a thanks to @Gem_Cutter for his critique on mine as well  ;)

The Rule of the Curse, by @SugoiMe


Something Awesome: Alien pirates mixed with a traditional "feel" of pirates. Or maybe they just put a wooden carpet for tradition  ::). Anyway, I like to be surprised by the unusual.

I liked the curse. It kinda of reminded me of Death Note, for the effect to see when someone will die.

Another part I liked very much: you didn't bloat the story explaining how the curse works or how the character got it, why it exists, why they kill each other, bla bla bla.  It was simply left in the air for the reader to take their own conclusions (if they want) and that's pretty much how I like my magic, organic and mysterious. I don't really like when people go into too much detail about their systems, or God forbid, if they decide to simply spoon feed it to me.
So that worked really great here for another combination of unusual!

Something Boring: ---

Something Confusing: Maybe spaceship mixed with a feeling of traditional piracy and weapons could be a bit confusing for some, for me it was simply unusual.
Maybe they could have used some laser or energy blades (or lightsabers  ::)) and some guns and the traditional feeling used as Zeher's taste or form of joking around.

Something Unbelievable: ---

Extra:This may seem a short critique, but I guess that's expected from stories that we either like or don't really see anything inherently wrong. Well, it says, it won the contest after all!
Like with my own critiques of @Jmack's and @night_wrtr's stories, I guess the only other way to offer more critique for such stories would be a line-by-line analysis with word choices, editing possibilities and such.


A Seasick Sword, by @Anonymous

Oh yeah, all the Anonymous for me are totally free game. If he or she don't want/like critiques, they can come tell me  ::)

Something Awesome:  A wizard who doesn't use magic, a sword who doesn't fight and the mysterious chaser all make for a intriguing cast. Well written with some great humorous dialogue.

Quote
An edge of panic sharpened the sword's voice.

Hah, loved that one.

Something Boring: ---

Something Confusing: I guess some people could ask who is this girl who chases Icewind so badly since the last edition, why and how can she trace him with magic. For me is not a problem, but maybe Anonymous would like to consider it for the future.

Something Unbelievable: ---

Extra: As amusing as it was, I think the strongest part of the story was also its weakness: they talk to each other. And only that.

That also made the story barely fit the contest, as the pirates just looked like a sidenote.

I really wanted to see Icewind and Brightedge in action for us to see their agreement and change towards each other.

I wonder if they could've been captured or were simply hidden while the pirates dominated the merchant ship that was mentioned. Then they could talk, see that people would be executed and form a plan, which would involve more amusing dialogue with the pirates and the captain, turning the tables and victory!

I think the parts that described the sea, the other three or four times Brightedge blundered, about Icewind's name and even some repetition at the end prevented pirates from appearing:

Quote
"If you want my help, you have to do this."

"But she'll find me."

"If she does, I'll help."

And later:

Quote

"So don't turn back. Live your life as yourself, and hope she lets go too."

"And if she doesn't?"

"Then we'll deal with it."

It ends right when they are gonna fight, when that should have been the middle part or the climax! I think that's the only thing that prevented this from challenging the top stories: lack of pirates and ending just when the action I actually wanted to see was gonna happen.


'X' Marks the Spot, by @m3mnoch

Oh yeah, @m3mnoch said he is always free game, folks. He likes it hard and deep, so fire away at him!  ::)

Something Awesome:I'm actually surprised you were the only one who used a treasure map. That's like, classical stuff for pirates!

Quote
Terrance sighed, ignoring thoughts of babies trapped, suffocating in a barrel of oranges.

What? Awesome ;D

And that was a nice plot twist at the end. You seem to always do that, with your F¨#%* dragon story and the Potion for example. I guess since you like to outline, those twists come easy and naturally for you  ;)

Something Boring: I felt that Will, Terrence and Frank weren't very distinguishable from each other. You did try to make Terrance like books and Will a money guy but aside from that they didn't feel different.

Something Confusing: ---

Something Unbelievable: Frank has a gun and tells them he is gonna make the pair carry the gold for him. Then he tells them to stay where they are and ... runs off to the cave by himself and leaves them behind?  :o M3mnoch!

Extra: I think just like with Anonymous the story simply mentioned pirates as a sidenote (the map, as they weren't even physically present in the story).
Terrence and Will looked like explorers as well. Maybe this could've been a contest between two different pirate captains/groups.

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: m3mnoch on November 05, 2016, 11:44:46 PM
Oh yeah, @m3mnoch said he is always free game, folks. He likes it hard and deep, so fire away at him!  ::)

ha!

PEW-PEW-PEW!!



Quote
Terrance sighed, ignoring thoughts of babies trapped, suffocating in a barrel of oranges.

What? Awesome ;D

oranges.

or nails.

or diesel.

heh.  that ended up being one of my favorite lines.



And that was a nice plot twist at the end. You seem to always do that, with your F¨#%* dragon story and the Potion for example. I guess since you like to outline, those twists come easy and naturally for you  ;)

man, i wish.  those things are HARD.  i'm struggling coming up with one for my 1750 story.  *sigh*

but, boy-o-boy, you should see the one in my main wip.  it's SOOOOO RIDICULOUSLY GOOD.



Something Boring: I felt that Will, Terrence and Frank weren't very distinguishable from each other. You did try to make Terrance like books and Will a money guy but aside from that they didn't feel different.

well, poop.

i felt like will and terrance were pretty clean.  maybe it was frank that muddied the waters?



Something Unbelievable: Frank has a gun and tells them he is gonna make the pair carry the gold for him. Then he tells them to stay where they are and ... runs off to the cave by himself and leaves them behind?  :o M3mnoch!

/facepalm

doh!  i didn't even THINK about that!!

damn.

you totally just ruined the story for me.  heh.



Extra: I think just like with Anonymous the story simply mentioned pirates as a sidenote (the map, as they weren't even physically present in the story).
Terrence and Will looked like explorers as well. Maybe this could've been a contest between two different pirate captains/groups.

yeah.  honestly, i thought this would be my biggest problem in the voting.  ah well.


thanks, @Lanko!  i'll review my notes and write one up for you really quick.


edit:  dammit!  you tricked me again!  i would have sworn it was LAST month where you didn't write a story!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 05, 2016, 11:54:23 PM

Something Boring: I felt that Will, Terrence and Frank weren't very distinguishable from each other. You did try to make Terrance like books and Will a money guy but aside from that they didn't feel different.

well, poop.

i felt like will and terrance were pretty clean.  maybe it was frank that muddied the waters?

Hm, perhaps? Maybe if it was Terrence the one with a hidden gun, finally snapping for going through so much for the treasure and being the one who falls off... would that be better? Hm, I wonder...

Quote
edit:  dammit!  you tricked me again!  i would have sworn it was LAST month where you didn't write a story!

What are you talking about? Of course I have a story, I nagged you so much about those pesky italics  ::)

Wait a second... Are you telling me my story is not showing on your kindle/kobo/doc files?

....
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: m3mnoch on November 05, 2016, 11:58:53 PM
What are you talking about? Of course I have a story, I nagged you so much about those pesky italics  ::)

Wait a second... Are you telling me my story is not showing on your kindle/kobo/doc files?

....

*whew*

that's right.

it was the late one that bea dropped in.  i was just skimming the submission thread for your name on the side.  totally forgot you weren't the one who posted it.  so much for "actually, rather than dig up my notes, i'm just going to click on the forum since it's right here."  because -- oh look!  there you are in my notes!

man, i thought i was going crazy for a minute there.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: m3mnoch on November 06, 2016, 01:11:21 AM
doing a bit of crazy with my notes here.  moving everything to a google doc for easier markup and a reading log sort of thing:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zikWOKKH_o-n-_gx4L3zvz5ENWZWZZQ9qRMzuiukRh4/edit?usp=sharing

that's basically what i was doing for the longer pieces in the writing groups.

oh!  and, i've copied most of my notes below in the critique sheet format from the ebook link post.


----------------------------------------------------------------
## The Red Chicken
### By Lanko

Summary:
rides the line between humor and serious.  i was never quite sure if it was supposed to be satire or not.  i think i've decided it's a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale.

all in all, the overall story had a TON going on.  probably way too much for 1500 words.


Theme Appropriateness:
we're all about the pirates in here!  she even steals a kingdom!


Opening Strength:
i wasn't clear on the actual ins and outs of how the coliseum sank, but i liked the thought of a grand-scale catastrophe.  i suspect it could have been cleaned up with some extra words and editing time.


Mechanics and Style:
lots of telling instead of showing.  mangled verb tenses.  some typos.  it's almost as if someone rushed it at the end . . . .


Characterization:
there were nice bits in there for lanny that i loved.  like the "Glory and fame awaits us!” scene.  oh!  and where she threw egg on the captain's face.

the other folks were fairly flat, even joshua.  tho, i could see where you were going with him.  loved his non-sequiturs like the squidink and the crab.

but, it's hard to get deep on character with so much plot.


Conflict and Tension:
there wasn't really a lot of tension felt, despite being LOADED with conflict.  this struck me as the result of packing so many events into a relatively small story.  doing that requires a lot of telling (vs. showing) which kind of negates a lot of the tension.


Cohesive Story:
it skipped around a bit -- like the clarity of the sinking/bursting/collapsing coliseum in the beginning to her getting random ships with a random plan to the throne seizure to the drunk and useless king.  there was SO much happening, it's just so hard to keep it cohesive in the word count.


Ending Payoff:
"Pirate, revolutionary and queen. Did I miss anything?"  pretty solid fairy tale ending.  in fact, it's what helped me to decide it wasn't satire, serious, or pure humor, but a "in need of some editing" fairy tale.  the beats of the throughline were good, it just needs some tightening up from a solid editing phase.

Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lanko on November 06, 2016, 03:01:59 AM
Thanks, @m3mnoch.

And holy... how do you do that using Google Doc? That was so damn cool (and extremely useful).

And yea, I agree it was "loaded with conflict, but with little tension felt" because of excessive telling. A few days later after the submission I read it again and it felt more like a plan for a synopsis than a story. I guess I could expand it, it's NaNo month after all...

About editing, also agree, but I guess it couldn't be helped, as I kinda cheated already as it was submitted on October, 3rd  ::)

But I'm gonna get it right this month!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: Captain of the Guard on November 06, 2016, 10:23:23 AM
I have to say, that being new to this I really enjoyed your stories and i would appreciate
critique on my story " the Wreckers Horn" Bring it on =) in your own time of course.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: JMack on November 06, 2016, 12:14:18 PM
I have to say, that being new to this I really enjoyed your stories and i would appreciate
critique on my story " the Wreckers Horn" Bring it on =) in your own time of course.

Hi, @Captain of the Guard. I'll definitely do a critique, because I really liked your story. The setting and situation were super. I wanted more from the ending. Will give more details later when I have a minute.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: m3mnoch on November 06, 2016, 03:18:09 PM
And holy... how do you do that using Google Doc? That was so damn cool (and extremely useful).

someone was nice enough to post a link to the word document version of the stories, so i clipped yours out, and pasted it into it's own google doc.

from there:
- switch to "suggesting mode" in the top, right-hand corner of the doc.
- highlight a bit of text, and click insert -> comment.
- when finished, click share -> get sharable link

easy, peasy.
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: night_wrtr on November 07, 2016, 08:51:03 PM
@Captain of the Guard

I understood that Alfred and crew were going to steal/scavenge a ship, but I didn't get the understanding as to why or its importance to them for doing. What were they going to take? Just plain ol' plunder, or something specific? There were a few sections that held a lot of information, but I didn't know how it fit into the story. IMO, there was a lot of information that could be cut out that wasn't vital to the story.

Eliminating some of those details could allow you to use more of the highly coveted wordcount to elaborate on the characters, their interactions and getting closer to the plot of the story.

” Over there ” the call came from the dunes just ahead of them. It was Alfred’s uncle, Valter, who called. The three boys started running towards the caller.

Who is "them?" It was Alfred's Uncle that "called," but I'm not sure what that means. A yell? A signal? Could it just say Vaulter instead of caller since we/they know who it was? The opening lines didn't grab me which is always something I look for.

Valter kicked his small horse to get it to trot, the boys followed suit. Hildur turned to Alfred   “ We’ll be there before well before dark” “But won’t there be other families there?” Alfred was concerned. “There probably will, but Valter is senior… I think” Hildur lost his smile and looked at the moving back of their uncle. “Let’s keep going” he said and threw back his heels at his horse, Alfred kept going at the same speed.

Needed some paragraph breaks between these two speaking to make it easier to identify who the speaker was.

“ It’s a...cray...no it’s a…cog ?” Tostig turned to look at Valter to get confirmation. “ I think you’re right Tostig, but she looks a little funny doesn’t she” Ha had his head tilted slightly to the side, as he wanted to look at the ship from another angle.” Yes it’s a cog” His voice firmed up with decision. “Alright everyone it’s a cog, they usually have ‘bout fifteen to twenty crew. So we’ll do this as we always do.”

Not sure what this paragraph was supposed to tell me. What's a cog and why was it worth noting?

Valter led the three up onto the Cranners Moor that made up the most of Wrecker’s Horn. As Alfred sat there on his pony he wondered. Why did Valter insist on bringing me?  And this ship, does it have something to do with the fight on the south coast. The latest news from Ortolia was that the Prince was riding to Vesenburgh to fight the Vicas brotherhood.
 But he couldn’t understand how the knights could fight the pirate brotherhood, because they would be on horses, right?


Here is an example of some details that didn't have a big impact on the story and felt "dropped in."

I was mostly interested at the point when they climbed the ship and started seeing things, like the sword wielding man. It might have done well if the story started directly before then, inserting details like those above as they were climbing the ship, or coordinating their attack. It would have cut a lot of the early wordcount, given us some concrete description and still included part of the background detail.

“Welcome aboard, little brothers!”
I liked this part. Things started happening. 1500 words is such a small playing field. Every word has to count and I think that is part of what worked against the story. Going back to my earlier comment, there is a good amount of things that could be slimmed down or cut altogether. I guess my best advice is to go back through the story and see what you could cut out that would still allow the immediate story to continue. Then, do a wordcount and see how much room that gives you to work with for adding details. Tell me more about Alfred. Give me more about why I should care for him, or feel fear when he is caught at the end.

EDIT: forgot to say thanks for joining the contest club and hope to see more submissions in the future!
Title: Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Post by: JMack on November 17, 2016, 12:07:41 PM
@Captain of the Guard:

Some comments on Wrecker's Horn.
But I think it might be useful to you to have a detailed line discussion, which I'll send as a PM.

As we all say, this is one reader's opinion, and everything is intended to be helpful. I will be blunt where I think that's also useful. But ignore whatever doesn't help you.

I really liked this story, though it had a variety of things that bothered me, and I wanted a stronger ending.

Here's what I liked:
> The whole idea of wreckers as pirates, and of this whole culture of farmers and country people who turn into brutal thieves when the opportunity arises.
> An almost dreamlike quality to the piece.
> Little details that make the story real, especially a sense for the landscape
> The POV of a frightened youngster, which gives us a chance to identify.

Here's what I struggled with:
> Technical stuff: grammar, punctuation, proofing, paragraph breaks
> Ideas, names, events that suddenly appear without necessary prior work laid down (I know this needs examples to be useful)
> No understandable reason that the ship was where it was, or that the pirates were ready for the wreckers. Of course, they're presumably professionals against amateurs. So matbe that's a quibble. But if they're pros, what are they doing getting into these straights. (;) see whart I did there?)

You've created such an interesting situation, here's where I'd have loved to see you take this deeper:
> The casual shift to criminal behavior is fascinating. But our MZ never really goes through it. He's afraid, the pirates appear, he dies. We never see him make a choice, or get swept up in blood lust, or anything.
> The story lacks conflict that matters to the MC. He doesn't want anything that someone else keeps him from getting. And this shows that in my view, the conflict with the pirates comes so late and is so impersonal, that it is interesting and surprising but isn't dramatic.

But I really enjoyed reading this.The whole story was clear in my mind (though I had to bridge gaps and fill them in). The situation was fascinating.



I have to go to work now, but hope to send you.more by PM this weekend.