[BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

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[BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DMajorBoss » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:05 pm

Salutations.

With a lot that has been going on, in relation to cancer, I've not been writing as much as I used to. Heck, about the one thing that I've been working on in the writing sense is "Sugar Bits." After a while of inactivity, I finally thought that I'd try writing a little again.

I've two stories that I'd like to share for now. I admit that I've not made any "real" story in about a year's time before this.

http://dmajorboss.deviantart.com/art/Ca ... -325135385
http://dmajorboss.deviantart.com/art/Co ... -337212340

I simply want thoughts on what I did. I don't care if they're positive, negative, or neutral. I just want to know how these look to others. I'm going to keep at it, no matter what. After reading, however, do share your thoughts.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DMajorBoss » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:43 pm

Hmm...I guess few are available right now.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby Riz » Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:26 pm

I really like it so far, kinda makes me think of Reepicheep from Chronicles of Narnia. is the first one you linked the first part of the story? you plop us right in the middle of things, not that that's a bad thing but if it is then make sure you adequately explain parts that reference before the story started, not sure exactly why mice and rats are fighting at this point. if that's not the first part then just ignore what I said.

I'm not very helpful, sorry.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby Hiroko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:54 pm

Basically what Riz said. It feels very much like the story is starting "in media res," supposing that first part truly is the beginning of your story. "In media res" is an interesting storytelling technique, but it still requires that some explanation of what supposedly happened before to lead us to what's currently going on to show up, either as an explanation from the lead character himself to someone else he later meets (like in a frame narrative), or in the form of a flashback spliced between the current events and, perhaps, the moment he escapes his cell (Or maybe the flashback occurs while he's unconscious, though this is a bit of a cliche as that's usually were most people put in a flashback), or something like that. As long as it shows up somewhere in some manner.

On a more nitpickier note...I was a little lost in the second part when it mentioned that the first part's setting took place in a forest. I don't think it was made very clear in the first part that the fight was going on in a forest--actually, in my mind, I sort of imagined that it was happening out in a courtyard or something--so, that's one thing, I think. Making sure to make the setting clear to the reader at the time it's introduced to prevent confusion later.

Overall, though, I think your storytelling is great. There's definitely a lot of potential here, and I look forward to seeing more, if you continue this story. : )
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DMajorBoss » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:05 am

I thank you both for your view upon my story; I greatly appreciate it.

Indeed, I will do well to give explanation of what's going on as the tale continues, as I really did want to put the reader right in the middle of things to start them out. I also want to keep each chapter at a certain length, so I'll do what I can to give said explanation without boring the reader.

I thank you for the advice and tips, and I'll make sure to alter them as needed. Again, I really appreciate your commentary.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby Q.U. » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:54 am

Hiroko wrote:Basically what Riz said. It feels very much like the story is starting "in media res," supposing that first part truly is the beginning of your story. "In media res" is an interesting storytelling technique, but it still requires that some explanation of what supposedly happened before to lead us to what's currently going on to show up, either as an explanation from the lead character himself to someone else he later meets (like in a frame narrative), or in the form of a flashback spliced between the current events and, perhaps, the moment he escapes his cell (Or maybe the flashback occurs while he's unconscious, though this is a bit of a cliche as that's usually were most people put in a flashback), or something like that. As long as it shows up somewhere in some manner.

As somebody who does use this technique, I can agree. But I'd have to point out, that the explanation shouldn't be rushed either, but incorporated into the developing story. And appear mostly in "chunks" when it seems relevant, otherwise the balance between the backstory and the action will be broken and the reader will be bored. seeing as this story is still a rather short way in, there is still time for explanations to show up as the story goes on.
The main challenge from there is as I said putting the explanation into the story in a meaningful way without making it feel forced. I tend to prefer the addition of a dim character who needs many things explained to them, and having them interact with the main protagonist to cause an environment for explanations whenever appropriate. It's one of the easier ways I believe. And grants some potential for comedy relief if we decide to use it.

The first person narrative seems to be working fine in here as well. It could benefit from some more personal and subjective descriptions, especially of the environment. But that depends whether or not you want to make the writing more "beautiful" at the cost of slowing down the action, or make the action more "thrilling" at the cost of shortening down descriptions of circumstances.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DMajorBoss » Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:06 pm

Thank you very much for your critique as well. I do plan on getting things explained, and I want to make sure that it's not too rushed or "too much" for the reader either.

Thank you again!
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby Valhallen » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:20 am

Some good things, some things could use some work. Some of the wording and phrasing seems a bit awkward or otherwise problematic. The atmospheric electrical discharge is spelled "lightning". There are also some tense inconsistencies. Do you have an editor you can go over it with? As for the story itself, in medias res can work well, but readers need enough context to make sense of what's going on. Your choice of an apparently original fantasy world as a setting makes this more difficult because pretty much anything goes (potentially) until you inform readers otherwise. It's important to let readers fill in a lot of the details in their visualization of the story, but to do that, you need to sketch the basic outlines in first. So the first scene is in a dark and stormy forest. What kind of forest is it (e.g. young tangled growth, old growth with an open understory and fallen logs, conifer forest, palm grove, bamboo thicket, freshwater swamp, mangrove swamp, redwood forest, tropical rainforest, temperate rainforest, a single large banyan tree) and how is everyone placed within it (in the open, behind a tree or log, obscured by brush, distances and directions, relation to meaningful points of reference)? It's raining on the combatants, but how heavy is the rain (drizzle, moderate, downpour), and is it falling directly on them or working its way through the canopy? Is the darkness due to night, stormclouds, the forest canopy, or a combination, and just how hard is it to see? Without lightning, it's bright enough to fight effectively and to take aim at some distance, but it's not bright enough to see the archer or the two enemy swordmice at that distance?

A big thing that's unclear at this point is the degree of anthropomorphization of the mice and rats.* They apparently have opposable thumbs set on humanoid hands, arms, and shoulders, and are capable of grasping things behind their backs and of walking upright. They make clothing and wear it similarly to how humans do (the use of tunics suggests a European fashion sense that might fit somewhere in the last two and a half millennia, which covers too much territory to let readers know what kind of clothing they are actually wearing), build at least some structures, and know some metallurgy. The use of a bow and arrow and the swinging of swords suggests that they are closer to human scale than real-world mice and rats (scaling factors make momentum-based attacks less capable of inflicting damage at smaller scales, where stabbing and grappling would be more important, especially if armor is involved). They seem to be semi-monogamous k-strategists (like humans) rather than promiscuous r-strategists (like most small rodents). So far, for practical purposes the characters seem to be humans at some level of development from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance. But I don't know if I can trust all these inferences to build my understanding of the story's world because you haven't given much solid information about what model you're using for the characters and their society. Is it meaningful for the story that the characters are mice and rats, and if so, how mouslike / ratlike are they? What is the state of species relations (the mice working for Voltragen were described as traitors)? Does their nominal non-humanity have any effect on their motivations, or should we think of them as just humans with buck teeth and tails? As a reference in this regard, have you ever read Watership Down?

A lot of this information wouldn't be hard to work into the two chapters you have up without disrupting the flow (it can even be used for characterization), and it would go a long way to making characters' motivations and the course of the story understood. You're doing fine on your choice of scenes and overall action. You seem to be going for an action-heavy, exciting story, but the lack of context makes that less vivid than it could be. What does Corvin actually see, hear, feel, and think? Depending on the level of anthropomorphization and level of visceral immersion you want, you might consider some smell and taste too. Emphasizing perception and sensory experience can draw interest to the action and to some extent make up for weaknesses that would break immersion or willing suspension of disbelief*. The slower-paced, solitary parts of the second chapter would be a good place to put some backstory as Corvin thinks about how he got there and where he's going.

*Looking through the DA comments, I see that you're going for a Redwall style of anthropomorphism. Which is fine, but I couldn't tell that from the story itself.

**The weapon physics was only an issue for me because I was in a position of trying to figure out what was going on with inferences based on details that can usually be glossed over. If you make it clear that the characters are at a certain scale, most readers won't be looking for clues and then stumble across a break from reality that is usually excusable and easily overlooked.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby Asmodai » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:47 am

Silly question perhaps, but why was this posted in spam, and not the literature forums? You'd probably get more feedback there (though I have no idea how active it is)
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DaCrum » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:50 pm

He'd get more feedback here than in the lit forum.
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Re: [BR Protected] Short Stories, Critiques Desired

Postby DMajorBoss » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:53 pm

Gracious, it's been a long time since I got such a critique...reminds me of my time in college, to be honest, and I am very thankful for that.

Indeed, I've read "Watership Down," but I also admit to having much influence from the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. A lot of the points that you make are very good as well. About the only thing I really want to try with this story is to make it short in length yet good enough to read still. For one, in dealing with a lot of personal life stuff (doctor visits and treatments and such), I've not made much in about a year's time (besides working on Sugar Bits). I pretty much wanted to see if I "still have it," in regards to story writing. Added to that, even for these being short stories, very few on DA seem interested in reading what I share these days. Heck, I submitted this story to 5 different websites, and I've gotten more word on this thread than all 5 combined.

As for why here, I was advised by BR on where to go. I admit that I don't frequent Snafu that often, so I was curious as to the best place to go.

Thank you again for the suggestions and critique upon my work. I shall do my best to improve and keep on, as I do want to make something well worth reading.
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