Palladian, thanks for the review!

I've just returned to my "Sworn" story ( http://swornstory.wordpress.com ) after taking a long hiatus for birth of my second son and to my surprise I noticed some traffic in it. And lo and behold, it's coming from a review in Web Fiction Guide (and a pretty good one. Yay!). So thank you. I'm just about to restart scheduled weekly publication and your review gave me a positive boost of energy and motivation.


I apologize for the lateness of my reply; RL has conspired to become so busy lately that I can barely make it here, but I am glad that I was able to give Sworn a review that you liked, and I'm very happy to hear that you found it motivational. I'm thrilled to hear that it gave you traffic, because that's always what I hope for any review that I write. Glad to hear you're back at your writing; you've got an interesting idea and a good start so far, so I'm interested to see where you go with it next.

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Super: Sci-fi/Suspense/Adventure, with Superheroes


No need to apologize! Meatverse seems to do that to us from time to time. :D


And yes, I'm writing again which is harder now than the first part of the story was. I really hope I can pull this off. My plans were to broaden the scope of the story both geographically and cast-wise from this point onward, but that presents a whole new set of challenges.


I went to go check out your story, but there was not a TOC, or a link to allow someone to start from the beginning. For ease of use, I'd recommend doing that at the least.


Once I scroll/click to find Chapter 1 and start reading, I'll come back and give a review.


Congratulations on the new baby (swoon) and getting back into writing. I know real life can put a damper on things. I, myself went on a 3 month hiatus as well back in December. I started writing again towards the end of March and I've gotten a whole new perspective. I have produced 2 chapters in April and I am feeling good about it gain. So, I know where you are coming from.


Anyway, I look forward to reading a bit of your story. :)


Hi Illlogicmedia.


Good point about lacking a table of contents. I'll look into creating one. Thanks for the feedback.


The best place to start reading my story is here: http://swornstory.wordpress.com/about/


Meanwhile I'll check out your story :)


No worries mate. I always try to help fellow authors. It never hurts to have a good navigation menu for visitors. Simple things keep people happy.


Started on chapter one already, but I had to do some "actual work". I'll get back on it in a bit.


It isn't required, but if you feel like you want to, I'd appreciate it. I will be honest, the first Chapter isn't that great (I think I need another rewrite on it). However, if you can at least make it to chapter 3, I've been told that's where people decide they just can't stop. So...FWIW, I hope it grabs you and sucks you in.


Well, illlogicmedia, I read your first chapter and have many things to say about it. I won't deny - reading through it was hard, and as it stands it's not very promising as an introduction to the story.


Bottom line is - this chapter needs rewriting. I'll be glad to point out some of the major problems I saw. We can discuss it here or start another thread if you're interested.


We can discuss it here, that is fine with me. I appreciate you taking the time to look. Did you get to read anymore though? I've suspected (as noted above) that Chapter 1 does need a rewrite. However, I probably won't have time to mess with it until after I have hit my Chapter 10 milestone. With that said, any constructive criticism you can give me will be much appreciated so that I can apply it in the near future.


I am on Chapter 5 of yours at the moment. I was pretty confused most of the time reading it (could be the grammatical nuances that are throwing me off...I'm not sure yet). It may be a "customs" thing, but I am very confused on the whole Akrusia thing. With Palladian's review I was under the impression that this secret society of women posing as men was done in a way to where the other men have no knowledge of it. Except it seems that this isn't the case.


The only other minor quibble at the moment is the sheer amount of names. There are a lot of them thrown at the reader right off and it is kind of hard to keep track of them (might want to consider introducing fewer characters in the first chapter). I had to re-read multiple passages several times to make sure I was on track with who was who and etc.


Anyway, I will continue reading as I want to give your work an honest overview as a whole and not just with the beginning. Hope that makes sense, I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet...lol


Anyway, I look forward to hearing what you have to say with my work.


Thanks.


Hi again,


Thanks for reading. It's interesting that you feel there are too many names in my story because my feeling when I started writing was that I'm writing a story with only two characters in it, and I felt like I should flesh out their surrounding society. Perhaps I need to reconsider that.


(Minor spoilers for those who haven't read the first couple of chapters of my story)


The Akrusia are not a secrete society, but women who swear an oath of celibacy and are then accepted as men by society. They are based upon the sworn virgins of Albania (Google it. You'll find some fascinating stories). Can you point out things in the story that gave you the wrong impression? It's the kind of thing I'd like to clarify in the text.


To your story:


No, I haven't read beyond the first chapter. Sorry. As it stands, after reading the first chapter, it doesn't look promising.


I'll use some harsh words in this criticism. I hope you won't take this the wrong way. I feel honesty is the best way to go if you are interested in improving.


As a whole, the chapter didn't give me a main character to care about and didn't expose any meaningful conflict that made me want to read and find out what-happened-next. Dr. Alkum as an ass kicking ninja-genius-billionaire didn't come off as convincing or interesting. The technological challenge of achieving space travel wasn't given depth and I wasn't introduced to any interesting conflict that would make me want to find out more about it. That's a shame for such a long chapter (in comparison to other web serials). There are three or four scenes in this chapter (depending on how you divide it) and yet so little exposition. I feel one good scene introducing a character and some plot conflict would have served much better as an introduction.


Other than that, let me go into some of the things I've found problematic:


Infodumps. There are several of them in the beginning of the chapter that don't feel integral to the story. Some of theme even switch suddenly to present tense ("Each machine, depending on their processing and storage capabilities, carries the potential for self-awareness." "Dr. Alkum uses Johnny as her right hand man. She trusts him...").


Johny's strange speech pattern is a suspension-of-disbelief breaker. It reads like an AI out of a bad 60's Sci-fi movie ("Would your biological systems require hydration?"). My smartphone can speak better English.


Another blow to my suspension-of-disbelief was The whole robbery/rape attempt/kidnap attempt and the way Dr. Alkum reacted to it acted after it.



The Dr. pulling a Jackie Chan on the attackers: just didn't read as convincing. It reads like a parody.


Afterwards: She covers up what happened (we don't understand why), then tells something about it to the doorman, then tells something to the Doctors, and then blurts something out about it to the receptionist. This feels rushed and strange. Isn't she supposed to be a genius?


Finally, the twin doctors in the secret-basement-hospital seemed like another bad sci-fi/superhero trope come to life. If your story was meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek this could be OK, but I'm pretty sure it isn't.


If Dr. Alkum is a billionaire she should have conflicts that are suitable for billionaires (and yeah, secret lairs and underground hospital would go down much smoother then). If she has a doorman she actually speaks with (and who's ogling her without getting fired), and she likes jogging around town, then street thugs may be a suitable encounter (still, not a very interesting conflict, but suitable), but the billionaire bit and the hospital should probably be dropped. The Jackie Chan bit should probably be dropped anyway. If she's a master martial artist it should probably be introduced in another way. It would stretch my suspension-of-disbelief to the breaking probably.


These are the major points I thought of while reading your first chapter. I'm sorry if this has been harsh. I should probably ad that I'm not writing all of this from the perspective of an accomplished writer (I'm not. I'm in the middle of the first serious fiction writing I've ever done), but from the perspective of an accomplished reader who knows what he's looking for in fiction.


I hope this will be helpful.


Thank you for replying.


I don't think you need to flesh anything out about the society as it really seems this story IS about two people, primarily. And that is ok for a drama. If you need more from the society in order to flesh out your 'world' then use the eyes of the primary and secondary characters for that. I wouldn't introduce new characters just for the sake of it because it feels a bit 'naked'.


If you look back to my previous post you will see that I didn't say anything about you giving the wrong impression. I specifically noted that when I read Pallidan's review of your work I had gotten the wrong impression. And it could have been that I just simply misunderstood. Now that you have clarified this it makes better sense in what I was reading.


The cross-reference to the same character as both a he and she is somewhat confusing to me...as I can only speak for myself here. I had to spend a bit more time than I wanted re-reading a few paragraphs more than once to make sure which actual character I was learning about.


As for your replies to my story:


I have a very hard time taking what you say to heart, especially since I already told you that Chapter 1 needed rework/rewrite. So, you really aren't telling me a lot that I already haven't been told before. If I would have only read the first chapter in your work and based my whole judgement off of it, I surely wouldn't be reading it now. Instead I put aside any pre-conceived notions of what a story "should" be, and focused on what you were trying to tell me your story "is". Trust me, I had to force myself to read your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters. I'm waiting for something to happen that actually catches my attention.


With that said, I will try to reply to some of your criticisms.


With regards to Dr. Alkum, she is a complex character that I decided early on to NOT flesh her out in the first chapter, she was meant to be "unconvincing" and confusing. My goal was to leave what was unsaid enough of a bait to have the reader come back for more. It has worked for other readers but apparently not for you. As far as un-interesting, well I don't know what to tell you as I have had several other comments to the opposite effect. But, I will see about re-working her character a bit more in the First Chapter rewrite to see if I can get a better balance there.


You are unaware of the technological challenges of achieving space travel? Seriously? I could compile a rather large book on just that easily available data alone. I was under the impression that this was common knowledge and it would have been silly of me to re-identify it in. Perhaps I should reconsider this aspect of it.


Yes, I am painfully aware that I still have info-dumping in the first chapter. You should've seen the first draft, it was twice as long with about five times as much info-dumping. There was a few things I left in there that, at the time, I thought were important to leave in, but now that I look at it again, they serve no purpose other than to info-dump. So, I will be addressing that on rewrite as well. Heck, I've trashed whole chapters and started over because I found myself doing an info-dump.


LOL, yes, Johnny's speech does come off that way. That was done on purpose as an attempt to pay tribute (homage if you will) to those "bad" 60's AI. I'm sorry you didn't like it. Is it his unique quirk? Did Dr. Alkum order his speech programming to be that way simply for her amusement? Do you think every iSAB talks like this? Guess that's what you get for limiting yourself to just the 1 chapter that I already know needs some re-work. :) This is something that I have maintained throughout the chapters and it will continue that way. Why? Well, because I do like it, because I love Data from Star Trek, and all of those other "bad" AI tropes.


It is a Park where people run with their pets, in a downtown metropolis setting. How dangerous could it be? Did you know that a local fast food restaurant here in the suburbs of a major US city can at any given time become the scene of a mass murder? It has happened. In real life, danger doesn't always come with a warning.


She never felt any danger, I thought that was apparent. Why would I need to explain that? I'm a bit confused on this issue. Of course, her backstory later on explains a bit more of her nature and why she reacted the way she did. That would require you to read further on, which you have implied that you won't. I'm not going to go into spoilers here.


Are you under the impression that geniuses never make mistakes? Do you think they're infallible? Are they not also human? Again, I am confused by your seeming lack of connection to the real world. She is not a superhero.


Where did you get a "secret-basement-hospital" from? Dr. Alkum's company is a bio-medical research facility. Nothing secret here, she basically went to their internal infirmary. Guess I need to make sure that is clarified better.


With your "If Dr. Alkum is a billionaire..." bit, I think you are trying to put her into a category/mold where she doesn't fit. On one hand you have tropes that you despise and, yet, on the other hand, you are seemingly trying to force my main character into something you want instead of finding out who she is. It is a weird conflict you are portraying here. Do you know who Lisa Kudrow is?


I took everything you've said as a reader who has a pretty closed perspective on what a story should be which can, apparently, all be judged by the 1st chapter alone. I do have plans to re-work/re-write the first chapter, and there will be definitely some things you've mentioned here that I will keep in mind...they have some validity.


Again, thank you for your perspective and constructive criticism.


Hi again,


I appreciate your reading of my work but I feel that expecting anybody to read my work beyond the first chapter if they found the first chapter uninteresting is exaggerated. If you've found the first chapter of my story problematic or uninteresting that is *definitely* something I'd be glad to hear about in detail and try to make it better. I'd appreciate the criticism.


As of my criticism of your work - you owe me no explanations. It's your decision how and if to use it.


Be careful with intentional ambiguity from the start, illogic. Readers are going to take the first chapter as a cue and representation for what the entire book is going to be like. If it's confusing and vague, they may well assume the entire book is going to be confusing and vague, and simply drop it like a hot stone.


Think of it like a balancing act. If you're off balance from the start, it's liable to be a real mess unless done very very well. More often, you get the audience's confidence, then you start adding more and more tricks to the act.


If they never had confidence that they knew they'd be able to wrap their head around things, then they may not have the confidence to stick around when you start throwing real curveballs.


I'm personally still learning the place I need to keep the reader. Certain mood, certain distance from 'getting it', etc.


To Ski:


I understand where you are coming, and I agree with a lot of what you have pointed out. There are some things though that I really don't want to change, and a lot of other things I plan on changing. I am a bit disheveled at your lack of pursuit to answer some of my questions though. As I want further understanding from your point of view. I mean, you are one person, but you may represent a large portion of the reading audience out there, or you may represent a fairly minor one. Like I've said before, I think it is nigh impossible to please everyone. But, I do take your criticism to heart.


With regards to my reading of your work. I was trying to give it the benefit of the doubt beyond the first chapter based on Pallidan's review. It is clearly not based solely on the first chapter alone. When I get some time I'll go over your first chapter if that is what you are asking me to do.


For me, the vast majority of reading I do and have done in the past, there has been rarely a point in time where the first chapter really makes me want to read more. Stephen King is a big one that you have to chug through at least four or five chapters to finally get to the plot. Dean Koontz is another. There are a few gems out there though that have just yanked me in within the first few paragraphs. So I don't know if I can agree with the idea of "you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can sure judge a book by its first chapter" mentality. Because, I just don't.


To Wildbow:


I completely agree with you on your remarks and they make complete sense. I've known for a long time that I need to rewrite Chapter 1. I'm just not willing to gut it and force an inevitable rewrite of every single chapter afterwards due to some of the advice I'm getting from one person. I don't think it is necessary. I need to strike that balance of ambiguity, but not so much that it is confusing. I get that.


I guess I am just really confused because I am getting opposite advice from different people. A female critic from another blog I venture lambasted me for my first chapter (the one that was twice as long as the one posted now), but she gave me high praise for the fight scene with Dr. Alkum. Her and quite a few others touched on the info-dumping.


I don't know...I'm at a loss now.


Anyway, thank you Wildbow for your input.


Hi illlogic

About my story: if you could tell me what bothered you in my first chapter I'd appreciate it.


About your story: I personally judge books by their cover and their first chapter. Call it superficial. There's too many books to read for me to delve deeply into something that I don't find appealing. I think most readers are like me in that regard.


I'll gladly answers any question you've got about my criticism to try and clarify it.


After giving your criticism a lot of thought, I am currently in the process of rewriting Chapter 1. Since there are probably many more readers that I am losing by continuing to neglect it due to some of the things that you, Wildbow, and others have pointed out, I just cannot put it off any longer.


I am trying a different approach, while maintaining some of the things that were established for a purpose to maintain consistency (Johnny's bad AI speech will be modified as it appears that I didn't maintain consistency throughout)I will try to bring it about in a way that will encourage you and future readers to continue to read the story to find out more.


If you will permit me another chance upon completion of the rewrite I would greatly appreciate it. I have to maintain the main characters ability to take care of herself as her backstory reveals the why. I hope to flesh out her character a bit more in the first chapter so you can feel a connection to her and why this has to be.


I plan on having this done by tomorrow.


Once I get done I will come back and give you some feedback on your First Chapter.


Not that it matters at the moment, I was referring to the questions I had already asked where you declined to respond. There was quite a few. For instance...Are you under the impression that genius = infallible?


Hi illlogic,


It's great that you're rewriting, and I'll be glad to try and read it afterwards.


As for your questions, they seemed less about the contents of my criticism and more about the validity of my observations, a thing I'm not interested in defending. It's your story. You should judge the validity of my observations and decide what to do with them.


But let me address specifically your last question about genius=infallible. No, I don't think geniuses are infallible. I think that a character we were just introduced to and were led to believe was a genius should establish her genius through her actions. Her failings, as a genius, can and should be dramatic - but only after the readers have come to know her and to believe she's a genius.


Great! Thank you.


It is taking me a bit longer than I anticipated. I have a large bulk of the rewrite done and I will continue to keep moving on it.


Fair enough, that makes sense.


You know, that is a great point with regards to Dr Alkum. I see where you are coming from. I guess it'd be like finding out your father is prone to making mistakes, but on a somewhat larger scale. Thank you again. I'll keep you posted.


Take your time.


illlogic, I just added a table of contents. Thanks for reminding me.


Glad I was able to help. Still working on the rewrite. I've probably redone it six times already. I'm getting very frustrated, but I know in the end it'll be worth it if I can retain repeat readers.