Feedback and Advice: Welcome to Transcendence

4 years ago | Kraken Attacken (Member)

Hello. I've very recently started, and submitted, a new serial. Too early for a review, but I'd like to ask for some feedback on what I have so far, especially to find out if it passes muster. I'd also like to know if the site design needs some additional work, as I'm trying out certain things to help with the aesthetics and appeal.

If anyone would like to give advice and feedback, I'd be very grateful. Thanks in advance!

Writing Fantasy: Welcome to Transcendence - Ongoing
And Sci-fi:The Ascendant Age - Hiatus

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  1. Kraken Attacken (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Silly me.

    Writing Fantasy: Welcome to Transcendence - Ongoing
    And Sci-fi:The Ascendant Age - Hiatus
  2. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    So, feedback.

    The Story Begins page could be tighter and more unique, more indicative of what kind of story this will be. As it is, it's a bit generic and doesn't provide a hook. Having read the first two chapters, it doesn't really tell you anything and it sets up an idea for the story that leaves some revelations in Chapter 2 feeling quite strange.

    There are 500 words in this story before anything happens. And, even then, this story doesn't exactly begin with a bang. The first chapter is, essentially, Tahira stands around, she talks to some people, eats some food, gives us some exposition, and finds out she died. 3000 words, chapter over.

    Are there any books that begin this way? What do you read?

    It is also, essentially, a dream sequence. Generally, these are regarded as boring and unnecessary and while the end of the Chapter makes it clear this isn't exactly a dream sequence, it's still not the best choice.

    The biggest problem is your use of weak, hedging phrasing and language. Cut any and all usage of phrases like 'sort of', 'kind of', 'seemed to', 'wasn't really', 'seemed like.' You do this a lot, and it seems to be a way of avoiding describing things, a form of lazy shorthand. But all you're accomplishing is kneecapping your own writing.

    For example: "The place seemed like a strange amalgam of every other such establishment she had been to in the past, few as they were"

    Seemed like? Well, it either is a strange amalgam or it isn't. You're the author, nothing is served by deliberately obscuring the meaning of your own words. Be confident! Be brave!

    And, hell, which establishments had she been to? Why not describe for us how it's a mix of her old homely college bar and this one dingy electronica club she went to with an ex?

    Like the above, there just isn't much description done (excepting the times where we get a blunt 'this is what they look like' when Tahira meets someone). There isn't enough detail, no attempt to paint this place as somewhere that exists. A lot of paragraphs and lines left me making the note 'how/why?' For example, when Tahira notes that some people in the restaurant clearly aren't human at all -- how? why? What makes them clearly not human? Are they aliens? Animals?

    Is this deliberately obscured to try and preserve the aliens revelation in Chapter 2?

    When she spots the man in the gaudy robes... How/why are they gaudy? Are they brightly colored, like some kind of rainbow vomit? Are they kind of boring but with ridiculous bright gold filigree?

    Whenever you do this thing where you say 'he's in gaudy robes' but provide zero description, you're essentially palming the descriptive work off to your audience. You are basically saying 'what's gaudy to you? He looks like that'. Eventually, later, when we have a better idea of what Tahira may or may not find to be gaudy, a bit of shorthand can work -- but at this moment we have zero idea about her.

    Maybe they're not gaudy at all, but Tahira thinks they're gaudy because of her upbringing or background. But we just don't know because all you say is gaudy.

    Similar to this, a lot of your use of language isn't strong or precise enough. I'm going to point to the line where Tahira mentions that she's feeling strange, like she's drunk and sober at the same time. That wouldn't just be strange. That would be disorientating, confusing, perhaps even frightening. Perhaps even impossible. We certainly don't get an indication from the text that she's anywhere near drunk.

    It's like the bit in Chapter 2 where you say that Tahira is 'beyond panicked' but this manifests as... sitting there and staring where her glass of water had been. She's 'desperately trying not to lose her mind' (cut 'trying', remember Yoda) by... staring sternly?

    I've had a panic attack once in my life and the feeling was so strong and all-consuming that even eleven years later I can remember it vividly. I certainly wasn't 'trying not to lose my mind' -- I felt like I had! It settled over my skin like a peroxide burn, hissing in my ears. And I wasn't staring sternly, I was focusing on what was in front of me because I was terrified that if I looked behind myself I'd actually die. I knew that it was crazy and that it didn't make any sense, but I was still felt like I'd gone completely mad for no reason.

    The story is very tell-y. You tell us that Tahira's awareness is fracturing, that everything's a bit strange, that she remembers dying, and yet nothing about the story really makes us feel any of this. The lack of any sort of attempt to really place us in Tahira's mind makes me wonder if it's all a setup to try and make the 'she's actually dead' twist work, but it doesn't. Hint at that earlier. Wouldn't it be more effective if Tahira was wandering the dream, feeling like she had the worst sunburn of her life, but confused and bewildered about where she got it from because she couldn't remember going out in the sun, and every time she breathes in through her nose she can smell smoke -- must be from the kitchen somewhere, or that fireplace.

    As it is, the wham moment at the end of the chapter just has no impact.

    You slather on the sympathy for Tahira a bit thick towards the end. She's been discriminated against, her sister is dead, her mom is dead, and now she's also dead. It comes across as maudlin. Additionally, the bit about touching her hair struck me as strange because, in my experience, people with afro hair don't appreciate people thinking they can ask to touch it.

  3. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Oh, and you use a lot of adverbs. Cut those, too. Use them when there's no other way to demonstrate what you mean quickly, or where they can create a sense of ambiguity. Don't use them when you're really only recounting the obvious, using shorthand, or creating an oxymoron ('lightly punching', for example).

  4. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    One final thing I didn't get from my notes into the above posts.

    "She remembered dying."

    This is one of those lines that could be an effective wham moment (I'd end the chapter on it, personally), but it isn't. With three other 'remembered' lines beforehand, it cuts away a lot of the power of that sentence.

    I read this thing a while back where an author mentioned how the usage of words like remembered, thought, reflected, mused, wondered is lazy and that you should never use them. He said you should always unpack them, show us what the character is thinking and how they feel about it. I don't agree with 'always' personally, because the more time you spend on something reflects the more attention a character pays to it. It's fine for a character to just remember/think/reflect about something for an idle moment, providing there's not much emotion behind it. Sometimes people just have weird idle thoughts.

    But remembering your death, being burnt alive? That deserves some unpacking. Some detail. Some fear and horror and confusion. Ideally, this would be a moment where the reader shares the dawning realization of what happened with Tahira, as opposed to just being told it.

  5. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Not long ago, you inquired about a story that was not 'approved' for WFG and you asked for a little advice.

    I liked that story premise, as I like this one. You have good ideas and I think you'll be successful at this...however, some of the things I mentioned in that thread still exist in your writing.

    Rhodeworks, as usual, was pretty spot on in documenting some of these things.

    If I were to offer any advice, I would say the 'vagueness' of some of your descriptions need to be refined, specifically the descriptions of feelings.

    I might also suggest looping some of the early 'scene setting' descriptions in AFTER Tihara speaks with Baccus for the first time. It would move up that important first interaction, as well as break up the multi-paragraph description of the 'oddly vague dining room.' Maybe he introduces himself and asks her to take a seat, THEN she looks around and notices some of the odd colors and hues of the room.

    Either way, I think you've got great potential and I like the concepts of your stories. I feel something that would help is to create a little more tension...more the eventual pay-off. Make those moments stand out. For example, when she realizes she's did she arrive at that? Did she just, remember? That could have been a much more powerful section in the chapter, but instead, it felt 'eased into'. Does that make sense?

    Hope some of this're doing great. Don't give up!

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
  6. Kraken Attacken (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Alrighty, thanks allot for the feedback and advice, @Rhodeworks, @smatthews65.

    The insights regarding adverbs, imprecise writing, and weak phrasing were extremely helpful. I don't think I was fully aware of what I was doing. In some cases, I suppose I was trying to provide a sense of surreal perceptions, but that doesn't really work if the way you write is disjointed. I'v decided to take allot of the advice you gave to expand certain descriptions, and to make things less vague. Hopefully it doesn't need too much additional iterations and adjustments from there.

    What @Rhodeworks said specifically about a possible fix being hinting at her death was actually very eye opening for me, as I hadn't considered doing that before, and it actually helps tighten a certain part of the lore.

    As for the other issues, when it comes to the panic scene at the beginning of Chapter Two, I should have elaborated a bit more, and I have done so in my edits, as well as fix the tone of the scene. Where panic attacks are concerned, I used to get them infrequently when I was a child and in my early teens, but I can vividly remember at least four occasions. During each of these panic attacks, I did essentially what Tahira did, and I would describe the feeling as me trying not to lose my mind. The main problem there is that I didn't elaborate enough, so there's that, but I suppose it's also a matter of perspective and personal experience.

    Where touching the hair is concerned, I myself, and several people I know, would let someone, depending on the person and circumstance, touch their hair. I added some minor elaboration, but I imagined that Tahira is the type of person who would let a young girl like that touch her hair, once she asked for permission.

    I'll have to accept the label of Maudlin that you placed on the conversation where Tahira's mother and sister are revealed to have died when she was a child. For various reasons, some of which have connections to the plot, I can't think of any way to change that that would leave me satisfied.

    All in all, Thank you very much for all the help. I feel the work will be much more engaging and have a tighter narrative going forward. I've already updated both Chapters, so i'll be happy if there are any new insights you would like to give me. Third chapter is going up on Saturday, and I'll definitely keep the insights given in mind as I review and finish writing it.

    Writing Fantasy: Welcome to Transcendence - Ongoing
    And Sci-fi:The Ascendant Age - Hiatus
  7. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Yeah. To be fair, that's what I assumed you were going for, that way of trying to create a surreal or dream-like feeling by allowing the audience to fill in the gaps. It's not uncommon, a lot of authors -- particular YA authors, who are the sorts I think a lot of serial authors read -- use that kind of language as vague shorthand. Trying to describe altered states like that can force a writer to stretch their muscles, and it might not work, but I think it's the sort of thing that really promotes getting a better feel for the craft.

    Adverbs are similar. Okay, sure, people can understand what you mean by 'lightly punching' -- but if you actually think about the words, you can't lightly punch someone. Punching, by definition, is a strong, powerful word. He punched him, the bullet punched through the armor, her words packed a certain punch... When you lightly punch someone, you're really just tapping them with your fist or knuckles.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll read airport fare as much as anyone else, but my favorite authors are the ones who wield language with concise precision. So, all of my advice comes from that perspective -- reviews, too.

    That, and I'd rather know if I was making a mistake before I'd written however many words and compounded it into my whole work, y'know?

  8. Kraken Attacken (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I get what you're saying. It's one of the reasons why i'll always ask for advice, and not simply be arrogant enough to think that I'm doing something perfectly, or that I'm not being an idiot without realising. Even if I don't take all of the advice a person is giving, the fact that they gave me advice in the first place helps me improve, even if only in tiny ways.

    Perfection is a journey, not a destination, but we still chase that elusive end goal, after all.

    Writing Fantasy: Welcome to Transcendence - Ongoing
    And Sci-fi:The Ascendant Age - Hiatus


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