Back from a grand weekend lake trip, and back to the grindstone of work and writing. As I mentioned previously, I had a single review for The Cyclic Ruse on WDC and I wanted to discuss how I felt about it. This reviewer is A E Wilcox on WDC, and we are members of the same Fantasy group on the site. She is quite talented and I was honored to receive a review by her.
So, here goes. Ms. Wilcox’s comments are italicized, mine are in bold.
General Comments ~This is a very short story with an extremely simple plot and it is packed full of wonderfully vivid descriptions.
I immediately felt pleased with this opening statement. Admittedly, this story was quite simple, but Ms. Wilcox stating I have “wonderfully vivid descriptions” was a compliment.
Along with the cycles of extreme winters and summer, the repeating refrain of “winter is coming”, this story seems to be heavily influenced by George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones. Was this theme a contest prompt? I ask because there is no author’s note at the beginning to say. As a piece of fan-fiction, though, it does certainly have its merits.
This confusion was mentioned by another reader to me in an email; since then, I’ve added an Author’s Note. It sucks, in my opinion, that I have to add one, but I don’t want plagiarism or accusations thereof to rear it’s ugly head, so I thought it best to clarify.
I think it would have been nice if you could have given, at least, your protagonist a name. It is important to do this because it would give the character more solidity and would help the reader to better connect with him. In the first paragraph you have only indicated the protagonist’s gender and then only in the last sentence –“The faint words echoed off the icy columns. Its subtle yet forceful whisper reverberated around the rime-encrusted iron throne. The words lingered on the ice-lined walls and slid forlornly into the silence of the ancient throne room. The orb he sought rested on the throne, its pale blue form vibrant and ethereal.”
It is always better, in any story, to get the reader to connect with the protagonist as soon as possible, preferably in the first sentence. You could solve this be re-arranging the paragraph, for example – A subtle yet forceful whisper reverberated around Soandso (the protagonist’s name). The faint words echoed off the icy columns, lingered in the ice-lined walls ans slid forlornly into the silence of the ancient throne room. The orb he sought rested on the rime-encrusted iron throne.
Now, I certainly agree with her about a character needing to connect ASAP with the reader, and I realize my flaw in the story. My original intent was to have an anonymous character. I deliberately avoided giving him a name, to accentuate the fact that he was JUST another warrior in the same cycle, over and over again. I didn’t really pull it off, it seems, because if Ms. Wilcox did not catch it, than most would not either. I’ve fixed this in other stories later, and made the characters have more, well, character.
In such a short space it is extremely difficult to create a well rounded character. It would have been nice to know whether the protagonist had chosen himself or had been picked by someone else to perform the duty of ending winter and why. What is it about this particular warrior which makes him fit for the purpose?
As stated in my previous paragraph, I was unclear and vague in my attempt to show the anonymity of the character correctly.
You have chosen to write this with a distant third person point of view. Again, this is a personal view, but I think with a short story the writer should get the reader closer to the action. I therefore think that maybe you should have gone with a close third person p.o.v. This would have allowed you to show the reader the workings of your protagonist’s mind, and made for a deeper story.
Related to the previous, as well, I chose distant third person to have the reader NOT see the inner workings of the warrior, as he was intended to be anonymous and one of many.
As previously mentioned, you do have some very good imagery in the story. I like these passages particularly –“The vaporous shades coalesced into a single form, the outline of a man; at least, a sort of man. Its solidifying limbs were clear, as clear as fresh ice, thick with frozen life. Its torso became smooth and slick, the vapors not quite solid inside, writhing internally with a life of their own.”
– and –“The vaporous shades were silent. The emptiness of the tomb-like throne room was oppressive as the warrior stood exhausted, breathing heavily. The light from the bluish-white orb resting on the plain iron throne grew visibly brighter, and the warrior gazed deeply at its new light.”
However there is one place where I thought your world-building was rather too vague –
The kingdom had forged the sword of the sun during the high heat of summer,
At the risk of sounding pedantic, I would say that a kingdom (an abstact, or collective noun) could not in itself forge a sword. would not some swordsmith or other presumably have been given the task by the reigning monarch?
Here I was trying to show the kingdom as a whole was united to create the sword to defeat the guardian. I should have been more clear, but I was limited by word count. I’ve taken steps in future stories to not assume the reader understands what I understand; meaning, only I as the author have the most complete picture. I need to let the reader see the picture without having to guess or make giant intuitive leaps.
I am pleased to say that I didn’t find any errors with spellings or grammar. I can’t comment on the dialogue because in this story there wasn’t any.
All in all it was a short, yet entertaining read, although I do think it could stand being fleshed out by re-working it to show the action from the close third person point of view.
Spelling and Grammar I take pride in, although I’m currently working on Passive Voice and excessive comma usage.
Overall, I feel it was a favorable review from an intelligent and talented writer, and I appreciated her honest criticism and compliments. I wish I had received more reviews, as just one doesn’t allow a full range of input from different opinions and preferences, but Ms. Wilcox’s will do for now.
Thanks for reading.
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