Review Request - The Seekers

Well I've finally got to the end of publishing my third chapter, so I thought it might be worth asking for initial reviews, now there's something substantial to read! Would be great to have some feedback (on the story - less so on the site!)

So here goes:

Or alternatively, start here:



Well Robert Rodgers I have to admit that your comments did make me cringe, and you seem to take great pleasure in over-indulgent analogies that make things seem worse than they are. This is evident in all your reviews, and although you often make very good points I think the critique can sometimes get lost in your desire to entertain.

Naturally I disagree with some of your opinions on a personal level. BUT, you highlighted quite a few things that I worry about in my story (too many plot threads, showing/telling?), and they are the things that a writer often doesn't notice themselves so I thank you for that, I'll certainly be thinking more on this as go along, and especially when I try to pull the word count down after I've finished the book.

All I can say to Gavin is thanks! You seem to have a bit more patience than Robert, (or perhaps more affinity with the genre?) but I totally take on board the comments about the amount I'm trying to hide, and showing v telling.

This is my first attempt at 'proper' writing and all feedback is valuable!

I can't comment on patience levels, because I don't know Robert's, and I don't know his affinity for science fiction either. But the synesthesia references caught my eye because of my own research in neuro-science, and I like cat-and-mouse antagonists (just go look for Donovan Reza if you don't believe me). I like science fiction quite a lot, having grown up in a house full of it.

The patience comes from being a parent, studying to be a teacher, and natural personality. But sometimes it runs out. :P

Studied to be a teacher myself, and I have an incredible depth of love for science fiction. Asimov has long been one of my favorites, along with Carl Sagan. The writer I most strongly revere is Luis Borges--who's more magical realism, but also kind of Twilight Zone-ish, in a really amazing, unique way. I'm also guilty of enjoying Roger Zelazny's 'Chronicles of Amber', Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Series, and (in a moment of incredible weakness and stupidity I often refer to as 'being 14 years old') a lot of Piers Anthony's stuff. And, y'know, I kind of have a link to a science fiction story of my own sitting down there *in my signature* (retro-sci-fi, but come on--engines capable of mathematics so complex they can predict future events? Psychohistory, anyone?). So, yeah.

I apologize for the snarkiness, as always, but also, as always, stand behind all my points. I have a great deal of patience for many things--writing, children, the art of teaching, trains, grenades... But I have zero for fiction that does not bring me joy. I've read through enough books that were devoid of any molecule of pleasure to know that the situation rarely improves.

I think Dash has a point too, Robert - since you asked (in the other thread): you may be tending towards having a little bit too much fun with your reviews....which are witty, but at the storys' expense. Although the writers here are really good sports about it.

{woo hoo, look at how many different types of punctuation I included in one sentence! and still followed it with an incomplete clause}

@Robert, thanks for that. Point made, perhaps. Yes, you should stand by your points, as it shows your immediate reaction and if people stop reading, then there must be a problem. At least you (both) try to articulate why you react in such away and that is what is important.

Perhaps I am asking too much patience from my readers. I have yet to introduce the final two main characters! After that everything starts to converge, and maybe I'm dragging this all out a bit too much and should have mixed these scenes in later in the story...

Maybe only Neal Stephenson can get away with it, but my story is rather large in concept and I have a lot of things to put in place! I will look at methods of tackling the frustration and the idea that the reader feels that the author is smugly hiding important plot points, but any future edits will probably be a long way off as I'll be being a father from the end of the month (Got a 'buffer' of about 6 months worth of posts to come!)...

Dash -- congrats if I'm reading that right and a baby is on the way!

I'm glad you have large concepts and lots to put in place -- large concepts can make great stories. My advice on putting things in place is put them in place in order. Hopping around tends to annoy readers more than increase suspense -- if they can see the pieces lining up, the suspense comes the same way it does when dominoes are lined up in a row -- when that first sucker tips, they know all of them are going to go down. Watching that first tip is intense because they know what's going to happen.

Some writers can transition between character narration, setting, even time. But those writers carefully craft the story so they have the trust of the reader, so the reader knows they are transitioning to the other context for a reason that suits the story. If it's too abrupt or comes across as unnecessary, you can lose that trust. It's a delicate balance.

If this is a first major story, I would highly recommend writing it in order -- that's good advice for any first story. Make sure you know how to develop plot and characters, and deserve an audience's trust, before you start creating experimental stories that might need that kind of trust from readers.

"I think Dash has a point too, Robert - since you asked (in the other thread): you may be tending towards having a little bit too much fun with your reviews....which are witty, but at the storys' expense. Although the writers here are really good sports about it."

My main concern is primarily punishing people for having the guts to put their stuff out there--but I can't apologize for having fun when writing my reviews. For me, both reading and writing are joys; if there is no joy in it, then there's no love in it, and writing without love is the equivalent of writing VCR manuals.

Nevertheless, point taken; I've been told I only have two settings, and the other one is louder--but I'll try to see if I can't take it down from an '11' to a '10.5', at least.

"Perhaps I am asking too much patience from my readers. I have yet to introduce the final two main characters! After that everything starts to converge, and maybe I'm dragging this all out a bit too much and should have mixed these scenes in later in the story..."

Orson Scott Card once said something to the effect of 'Prologues are for punks'. I don't think that he's the final authority (or even a substantial authority) on what defines excellent fiction--everything after Ender's Game seems to suck--but he might have a point in this case. I'd at least give a little thought to dropping the whole prologue--with a single stroke, it removes nearly half the unanswered questions you're asking the reader to hold onto ("Who is Balan working for? Who is the Hunter? Who's that girl? Are there such things as demons? Why does Balan think the Hunter is just like him?"). It also gets rid of that one line (seriously, the phrase 'We're the same, you and I' should never be used unironically--utter it to strangers on a bus-stop, cackle it maniacally to your teacher when he gives you an F in your history class, but *never* have a character state it with sincerity in a work of fiction!).

There's also a major continuity problem with your scene involving the construction of the A.I. -- or maybe I'm just completely misunderstanding? -- either this is the first time she's ever built an A.I. (in which case, one is left to wonder how she and her father knew it would work, and why they didn't try building one *off* stage, then just present the finished product to the Royal Society--a far, *far* more sensible approach), or she's had some practice runs... which brings up the fact that those other 'practice A.I.'s' must have been destroyed. If this latter thing is the case, you should draw attention to it--if your plan is to use those 'practice A.I.s' later on (vindicative enemies, or consumed in the final A.I.'s core), you should, again, draw some attention to them. As it is now, the situation came off in a way that didn't strike me as very sensible or genuine.

On a final note--writers get away with withholding information from readers by making that information feel *valuable*. Offer me delicious BLT in an hour, and I'll wait that hour. Offer me a sandwich in an hour, and I *might* wait that hour. Offer me some vague, undisclosed food item in an hour, and I probably won't bother. It isn't so much telling us everything up front as it is making the mystery feel tantalizing (or distracting me in the meanwhile with all sorts of interesting things on the side). That's my take on it, anyway.

Congratulations on being a father! And good luck!

Thanks again for the responses and the feedback!

Basically I have three character/plot threads:

- Billy and the Shadow

- Kathy and Unicorn

- Nat and the Professor (the big evil)

I was trying to introduce them together, hence the jumping around, but maybe it would be better to have each as their own chapter? In any case, it's Natalie's turn next! Part one is set in 1989, and they all come together in part 2, which is set in the present.

Re: the AI, I'll have to go over that scene again, the idea of having them 'build' the computer live onstage, was to show that it was an ordinary 486, that Kathy does ordinary things to in a transparent way, but with amazing results. It's a good point about the older AI's - I hadn't even thought about it!

The prologue is definitely a problem I think, I wanted to start with some real action, then show the events leading up to that moment, but maybe it would be best put back in order....

(And yes, the baby is REAL! OR at least he will be in a couple of weeks! Or today, who knows?)

Okay, so the alphabet is A through to Z, in order, right? Some writers, going from A to Z in their story (beginning to end) sometimes feel the need for a prologue to speed up the action. Let's start with Y and then go to A so that readers go "Man, how do they get to Y? that's so mysterious!" Now that they've had a taste of Y, hopefully they'll read all of A through to Z on the edge of their seats.

It's a standard technique in books and movies, and sometimes it works. But, the thing I am learning with online fiction and reader interaction in comments, is that people prefer strong narrative and characters to suspenseful tricks. If A is engaging, and B is engaging, and C is engaging, readers really reallly really like D, E, F and G because they're invested in the characters. They don't need Y ahead of time. They just want the story.

I guarantee you that if you put all of Billy's chapters together, all of Kathy's chapters together, etc. I would be more connected to those characters. You'd have at least one happier reader. Kathy is actually the most interesting so far, because you showed her in action and also gave a sense of her personality. Billy is kind of amorphous.

Just for the record, I disagree with the notion of combing the storylines into two neat piles--I think it's good to jump from storyline to storyline, so long as you do it cleverly, as it opens up a lot you can do with pacing, parallel stories, etc. But it occurs to me now that I'm trying to dispense writing advice, which is something I honestly shouldn't be doing anyway.

So, keep in mind: Not a professional writer. Not a professional editor. About as authoritative as a platypus on the subject of Quantum Mechanics. Take all advice with prescription-grade boulders of salt.

@Gavin: I must admit that given the time between each post I have honestly been considering offering a 'storylines' menu, wherein a reader could read all the Billy / Kath / Nat storylines as separate threads, while leaving the overall structure intact...

The only trouble is, drupal doesn't support multiple books, so the next/previous links would remain in the main book!

Hi Dash! I had a look at the story..I'm not going to write a full review, as Miladysa and Gavin pretty much said what I like about the story for me. However, I thought I'd drop in my 2 cents - everyone's different, and the current structure of the story, including prologue, worked for me. I didn't find it too cryptic. It is early days for the story.

The "show, don't tell" critique did strike a chord in places; the main one that stands out for me is the idea that the villagers have some sort of antipathy toward Billy beyond what one would normally expect from him being a little nerd at school. The nature of this maybe didn't come through for me as clearly as intended ; it seemed some villagers had it and some didn't and their conversations hinted at this, but maybe I needed a little more to really believe it.

Anyway - overall a promising start I think - good luck!

Hey thanks for the positive feedback - showing v telling is the bane of writers everywhere - I am well aware of it, but it is interesting to see what readers do/don't pick up as you're going along! It's also something I'm constantly revising, maybe in the fourth edit I'll be happy, but I doubt it?!!!

Also thanks to Miladysa and Intergal for the reviews!