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loki100

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I'm not sure about #4. Again I think too many sub-themes are introduced and there is too much description (that takes my attention away from the narrative). As with #3 there are lots of good strong images and ideas in there, it just needs a lot more careful knitting together to produce a coherent narrative. I'd be tempting to strip the intro right down and start with the concept of an unexpected visit and the resulting narrative.
 

Peter Ebbesen

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Okay, going to do a very brief examination of the four entries at this time and give actual criticsm later.

#1: Starts out strong but grows steadily weaker, only picking up a bit of strength at the end. The English is excellent but the story is in dire need of some careful editing. The main issue, I think, is that it is part of a much larger story but doesn't give enough of a glimpse of that larger story.

Disclaimer: I have guessed who the author of #1 is as the names of people and locations refer quite clearly to a specific game and a specific AAR published on this forum for that game, which I have read, meaning that I do know the larger story it refers to, but if I did not I'd feel a bit cheated. I'll keep the author secret until I make my bigger write-up to give others a chance to guess rather than relying on my certainty.

----------------

#2: Starts out strong but meanders a lot as if the author lost track of what he was writing. Also, I wonder who or what "she" is and why the bibliophile had an elephant. Stationed in India during Victorian times? Does the empire refer to Rome (eastern or western), Chinese, fantasy, or something else? I like the format, but so many questions are left open. I'm sure it is intentional, but like #1, careful editing would vastly improve the story. Excellent English.

-------

#3: Probably the boldest and most disturbing work of the three, scenes from a dungeon complete with torture chamber. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I read or how it relates to the topic, "a rumour". I mean, if we've got two prisoners hanging in chains next to each other and one of them says to the other that he's heard the other may be let go, is it a rumour? Depends on whom he heard it from, I guess. I mean, if he overheard a guard saying "we'll probably have to let X go", then he's not conveying a rumour. Yeah, I'm confused about this one. Decent English.

------

#4: Douglas in the Gulag. I can see what the author has attempted to carry off, but it just doesn't really work for me. Edit it down to half the size while losing none of the essentials and it might. The action/dialogue sequence at the end is definitely the strongest part of the narrative. This one has a few really weird sentences that makes me think the author is not a native English speaker; Either that, or he just did way too little editing. The most amusing example is probably this: "Despite the thick woollen socks that he wore, the winter's chill had permeated the very foundations of his hut"

..Think about it. In just which way can woolen socks be expected to prevent the winter's chill from spreading to the floor in his hut? :D What the writer wants to say is that hey, it is really cold outside and the floor is damn cold inside and the socks don't help all that much in protecting the feet from the cold, but what we get instead is a statement about how chill enters the foundations of the hut despite the presence of socks. :p

EDIT: An alternative explananation is that HE is the source of the winter's chill - father frost, perhaps - and that the woolen socks are supposed to prevent spreading the chill from his feet to the floor, but that is even more silly. :p

-----

More in a few days when I've had time to write a proper critique.
 
Last edited:

Rensslaer

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Also, I wonder who or what "she" is and why the bibliophile had an elephant.

Why... To remember things for her. What else? :p

I've already started writing some feedback... just haven't gotten to continue what I started yet.

Thanks to those who are already chiming in!

Renss
 

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Author #1

Wow! I really like the writing, and your chosen storyline. This already has a shot at being my favorite of the round (though I post them all, this is the first one I've read, and I don't even remember who wrote what, so it keeps my feedback unbiased).

I'm going to stop for a moment to show you why writing is such an art form. In the opening, you have this line: "He would have considered himself content but for the girl." Frankly, that's a magnificent line for exactly where it is -- you've set the scene, introduced your character, and then this is the hook. It grabs the reader and tells him to keep reading to find out what is meant. But I have to admit, it threw me a bit. In English, the word "but" usually leads one place -- you led another. It's often "but then" or "but he" -- "but for the girl" is a non-standard construction, and it took me a moment to realize I hadn't mis-read the passage. The way to prevent this -- to make sure the "road signs" are pointing in the right direction to keep the reader on track -- is to use a comma. "He would have considered himself content, but for the girl." To add a bit of ominosity, I might even go further: "He would have considered himself content... but for the girl."

The rest of the story is very well written and constructed. There's enough of the story background to tell us what's going on, roughly, and enough to involve us in the story -- to make us interested, for instance, in the old man not being killed, or the girl.

Nicely done!
 

Rensslaer

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Before my feedback on #2, I want to remind the readers of this thread that feedback is seriously lacking this time around! Granted, I'm slow at encouraging it -- I'm a little busy myself. But at least I would expect some of the authors themselves to be commenting, as at least they are invested! :p Surely there are others who are interested in reading, and commenting! Please, do come on in and make your comments. I'm aware that more than one of the entries this round are longer than we would prefer, but please do us the kindness of reading and commenting.

Thanks!

_____________

Author #2

As someone who frequents (or, perhaps, more accurately, occasions upon) used book stores, I enjoy this piece!

I find it fascinating that the subject of the story is every bit as much the Bibliophile as it is the book he seeks. Very nicely crafted.

This line -- "And, of course, your taste is well known." -- is great. It suggests that not just his partner (female?) is a vampire.

As someone who owns a cat who endears herself to guests, and then bites them, I must sympathize with the narrator. :D

A very interesting, and very well done, tale. It reminds me of a previous GTA work -- the one where the narrator is a "vampire hunter" and tells his personal, and very crazed, story. I wonder if the author is the same. And, of course, I do not know, because I don't remember which poster is which (then or now). Very similar style, though -- which is interesting in itself. I don't normally like personal narratives, but this one works. It's both interesting and amusing.

We never really find what the work, itself, is. But it's certainly a realistic work -- and therefore a realistic (plausible) rumor. It's true that governments only prefer to have certain positive works published, but others necessarily crop up. I am reminded of The Pilgrim's Progress and some of Shakespeare's works.

I haven't read entries #3 or #4 yet, but I am struck by how well this particular work adheres to the subject of this round's GTA Challenge -- "A Rumor". Since the subject is not always adhered to so well, I appreciate this!

I have no specific complaints about this entry. I often do not prefer "personal narratives" but this one is well done, and so is excused. :)

Renss
 

Wyvern

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Authors 3 and 4 haven't recieved much feedback yet so I'll give a few comments on these two.

Author 4:

I didn't find this piece had a whole lot to do with the subject of "A Rumour".

Putting that to one side though, it started slow, and having read Peter's comments about the socks it was hard for me to ignore that lapse in descriptive meaning. There were also a few other grammatical mistakes/missing words that proof reading would have picked up, but overall the English was pretty solid.

The story itself picked up and steadily grew stronger once the "Styles" character was introduced and would have benefitted from starting pretty much at that point. I found him more convincingly portrayed than the "prisoner" character.

I'd also have liked to see a better ending. The "I'll do it." just felt a bit weak after such a great conversational buildup. I'd have been tempted to use the ending as a hook for the reader and leave them in suspence as to whether he'll do the mysterious assignment.

Author 3:

I found this one the hardest of the 4 to read. My first recommendation would be to use paragraphs more. Those big blocks of text would really have benefited from being broken up a bit. Even more so than Author 4, there is no real inkling of a rumour amongst this story.

Secondly, beware of word repetition. To take one example, There was no real way to tell. You could tell when a new tool had been added to the repertoire . . . You end one sentence with "tell" and then used it again almost immediately. It scans badly and so sticks out. Whenever I write something like that I always go back and try and find a different word with a similar meaning to replace one of the occurances, or restructure the sentence.

Finally the whole piece seemed to change tense halfway through the second paragraph - beginning with the sentence Your own stench, from lack of even the most basic washing, was the only interaction you had with your own body.
 

iain_a_wilson

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I've been on a bit of a hiatus recently thanks to work, but I promise to have some feedback up here shortly! Overall I thought this rounds entries were very strong, so well done to the authors!

Oh, and in the spirit of Guess the Author, I'm going to wager that author #2 is Space Oddity...
 

Rensslaer

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FYI I will definitely be extending the time available to comment on this round -- into July 1 at least, I would think.

I've been having trouble finding time, and it appears others are too. I'd have hoped people would be more free to comment now that it's summer, but it's just as likely that summer travel pulls more people away. Dunno.

It would be great if some of those who are new to this thread would comment -- just get your feet wet, and join a wonderful tradition here from AARLand! :) Also, writers who feel they might like to participate in the future -- this is a great way to get an idea what it's like. Plus, the authors from this round themselves should definitely appear to comment, to contribute to their own thread.

More time, definitely -- these entries are also longer than normal (and at least one is too long for contest rules - but we'll deal with that in the rules for next time).

Thanks to those who have already contributed, and come on, those who will help this week and next!

Renss
 

Lighthearter

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I can place some comments over this week and the first half of the next one, but I'm heading out on the 30th for Leadership University with my martial arts crew and will be gone until the 3rd - I'll do what I can in the interim.

-L
 

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Author #3

Hmm... I have mixed feelings on this one. Good and bad, but nothing in between.

It's almost poetry -- the total absence of story element (except at the very end) in favor of description. My first reaction was that it's "too" -- a criticism of scope and depth.

But when you consider the "purpose" of the scene -- to convey the feeling of helplessness, and being trapped -- I think it does all right. Maybe even well.

I mean, it makes sense, right? This guy has LOTS of time to contemplate his surroundings. He dwells upon minute things, and hasn't much vision beyond his physical surroundings. It might be nice to find why he's there, but it's really not necessary.

I almost think it wouldn't work -- at all -- in a larger work of fiction. The description is too "deep", and therefore overwhelming. But it works as a short scene. It accomplished its purpose.

And the "rumor" comes in at the very end, breaking him out of his immediate surroundings and toward something broader.

As an experimental piece, or a one-off atmospheric, it's fine. But I think the uses of this style are very limited.

I think I was bugged by the change between tenses, too -- something I think Wyvern picked out. More careful word choices and some editing would improve it alot.

Good work, and well done, all the same -- I found it interesting, once I could get outside my preconceptions.
 

Avernite

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I glanced only briefly, but nr 2 screams out Peter Ebbessen as the author :) (Cue me being horribly wrong)

also, I am slow at noticing that this is back in action, I'll read more tonight!
 

Rensslaer

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Author #4

I'm going to concur -- in part or perhaps in entirety -- with what Wyvern said about #4.

If you compare Author #3 and #4, there is a definite difference in style (no pun intended), though the settings are at least similar. #3 was entirely focused on description, while this one seems to describe for a purpose which will soon be revealed.

That said, I think the piece (esp. the first 3 paragraphs) could benefit from a reduction in words by half! Actually, the wordiness and length of the piece works against it. I think I counted 1800 words (GTA maximum is supposed to be 1200 -- I will have to ENFORCE that if we don't keep within the limits! ;)). The description just took too long, and was clumsy -- not that it didn't describe what the author wanted to, but it wasn't as effective because the words weren't boiled down to essentials.

For instance, I might streamline that first paragraph this way (same concepts, fewer words): "Gasping for air, the man sat bolt upright, the springs of the wrought-iron cot creaking. He fumbled unsteadily for a glass of water he’d left on the rickety bedstand." Compare to: "The man sat bolt upright in his bed; breath coming in desperate gasps. With a shaking hand he reached out to the rickety wooden table that stood next to the wrought-iron cot where he was lying and fumbled around for the glass of water that he knew was there." It's dropped from 49 words to 29, and I don't think any clarity has been lost.

I do not mean to brag -- simply to show an example -- so here is a sample of a similar scene I wrote in Fire Warms (not the spy scene at the top -- the asylum scene a little lower on the page).

One word I think you've overused is "that" -- "glass of water that he'd left on the table". No, "glass of water he'd left on the table." It's just an extraneous word half the time. Proper English, yes, but it scans badly in popular literature.

It's always best to read your work aloud (or to yourself -- I've found reading to myself "aloud" in my head is just as effective) helps you to see "the jagged edges" -- i.e. the places where a person's speech and/or mind's ear stumble on awkward wordings. If you get tired, reading it, or frustrated, then your readers will too. All this is NOT to say it's not well written -- it is -- but it's not "efficiently" written, and so it's not as high a quality in the end.

I hate to use the word "tedious", but it is, really, when you're reading. It's too much time spent describing, not enough on telling the story. Now, Author #3 MEANT to be tedious (I think)! By reading his three paragraphs of stifling description, the reader subconsciously picks up what the character in the story is experiencing -- the sheer tedium of time in a locked cell with so little stimulation. Author #4 is doing something different, though -- you have someplace to go, the reader has someplace to be, and the reader is wondering why it's taking so long to get there.

Maybe this is just my own writing style imposing itself -- I am a VERY bare-bones writer. The story is paramount, whereas description is trimming -- only enough to inform the story and keep the reader aware of where the story is going on. Many writers do very well with more vivid descriptions -- and I think you can do this, but your description only becomes more vivid by streamlining. Make sense?

I don't mean to dwell on the negative. It's an interesting story, well concieved and crafted, well told. Just wordy, and that's my main criticism. I do wonder what the task is that's been asked of him, but that's kept intentionally hidden. Tantalizingly so -- you read to the next chapter to find out. And his past is vague, too, with the same positive effect.

Well done! Thank you (and everybody else who's written and commented this round)!

Rensslaer
 

Avernite

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Ok, not quite tonight from my last post (comments without reading other comments):

author 1: I like the story, reminds me a bit of ASOIAF, book 4. Punctuation and sentence length are not optimal, in my opinion, but such is life. Also, in my opinion, the speech tends towards spoken language. Very nice, but there's a reason writers tend to adopt writing language: it reads just a wee bit easier.

author 2: what can I say, looping back and forth, I think the story of Bob took a bit long for the eventual finish. The story was lighthearted, and might be great if we got a bit more background, but the form seems to have a bit less substance and too much exposition. I should note it took my reading the internet to conciously note WoT has a large amount of inserted detail, so take this as you will :)

author 3: Nice person, this author. Really, he brings out the joys of mankind, especially a nice contrast with story 2. I like it, just the tense and form of the last sentence seems a bit odd... the story seems third person descriptive, yet the last sentence implies a first person suddenly.

author 4: suddenly quite a different style. Not quite my type of story, I guess. It starts a bit overemphasising detail (too many nouns with a descriptive term... rickety table, grimy window, etcetera) but suffers less when the author got into the story, so it's not too bad.
 

Peter Ebbesen

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I will not repeat my comments from the earlier post. These are in addition to those rather than replacing them.

Author #1:

First a nitpick – the formatting of this story drives me crazy; manual linebreaks has that effect on me.

Then a second nitpick. The setting. We've got an old man, skilled in the ways of the wilderness, standing on the edge of a forest, watching a young woman climb the nearby cliff pursued by three men in forest garb and taking a route to where he expects she'll end up. Okay, very picturesque. We are informed that he's been hunting a gazelle all morning and that his stomach is now full, implying that he caught and killed it. All this is very neatly described and leaves just one open question – what on earth was a gazelle, a creature of the deserts, grasslands, and savannas, doing anywhere near the forest? I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation. Perhaps it got lost. Just saying. ;)

No, seriously, there can be forests near the habitat of gazelles, but it is one of those cases where, unless the animal is important to the story for some reason, you are better sticking with an animal that fits the described setting better. The human mind is drawn to things that stick out, that don't immediately seem to fit into the setting in which they are put, and that's something that an author should always keep in mind when introducing even the smallest object, person, or event – is this something the reader will consider expected or not?

The story is, as I said earlier, in need of editing. It needs tightening up, a liberal application of commas, and it might be better off providing the reader with a bit more information about the setting's wider story – but perhaps not.

As I wrote in my first comments, I know whom the author is. The clues are in the story: there's a place named Reyvadin, which attentive readers will recognize as one of the major cities in the game Mount and Blade, and the young woman is the daughter of the Wolf, a defeated personality. A few other names are also immediately recognizable. That means that the author is Wyvern, author of the excellent M&B AAR: Realm of the Wolf.


Author #2:

The story meanders. It meanders a lot. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but careful editing, especially of the middle parts, could probably cut 20%-30% while leaving a better story. With regards to the setting of the story, I'm torn between thinking that it is the case of an Englishman (Bob) who was once stationed in India (elephant references) pursuing a book concerning the western Roman empire (12 lives, early emperors), possibly in a fictional ahistorical timeline, and thinking that the author is deliberately trying to mislead me. See my comments on the gazelle above – they apply in spades to a man telling about his "wife, children, mistress, dogs,... and an elephant".

I don't know who or what the bibliophile's companion is. The behaviour is reminiscent that of a cat, certainly, but anything from a cat to a larger feline (tiger, even?) to a woman with curious tastes to a, heh, vampire, would fit in.

I find the ending weak. If this obsessed man travels all over the world "interrogating" people, the notion that he'd ignore the foremost collector of books, a fellow bibliophile, for so long just because the man's taste (in books? Other?) doesn't seem to fit the book's contents, seems rather peculiar. I mean, he's running down other people for the slimmest of reasons, and even if the collector didn't have that particular book due to disinterest, as the foremost collector he must surely have good contacts and a vast knowledge. Perhaps I'm nitpicking here, but it just doesn't seem to fit.


Author #3:

As noted earlier, this is probably the boldest and most disturbing work of the three. Stylistically I have little to note about it, save that the somewhat random construction of some sentences suggest a non-native speaker of English. It is decent English overall, but there are so many small inconsistencies. As an example, look at this case: "When the screaming stopped, there might be a few minutes before another was chosen to add their voice to the many of the choir ". It is clear what is meant and it is nearly correct, but when "another" is chosen, it is "his" voice that is added to the choir, not "their".

Overall, this piece paints very graphic images of life and feelings in the dungeon, but I have a hard time seeing the rumour-part, as I indicated earlier. I applaud the author for trying something very different, but with so many very different things, it can be hard to evaluate how it worked out.


Author #4:

I have nothing to add to my earlier comments. This one is in serious need of a rewrite to emphasize the good bits and do away with or minimize the bits that drag out.

EDIT: Apart from simply doing away with some things, less use of the form the adjective noun verbed the adjective noun would be a definite improvement. It can be used to good effect to give a description, but in this piece it is somewhat overdone in the first part of the story. It is much less of an issue once the dialogue takes over.

EDIT2: Similes and metaphors (this is a really minor nitpick) - I am really, really, bad at using them myself and as one result of that I know how dangerous they can be to use as one risks inspiring hilarity when it is not at all intended. This piece provides an excellent example of how I'm not the only one with this problem; the general tone of the introduction is one of doom and gloom, and then you get this jewel of a sentence: "Only the searchlights mounted in the guard towers made any effort to dispel the gloom that clutched at the little camp like a jealous lover".

Now, the way it is intended to be read is (obviously) "Only the searchlights mounted in the guard towers made any effort to dispel the gloom, that clutched at the little camp like a jealous lover [clutches his loved one]". I.e. the little camp is clutched/enfolded in gloom that doesn't want to let go. That's a pretty weird simile to use about the darkness broken by searchlights and threatened by the light of dawn, but, well, it sort of works. But that's not how it was written. It uses the form of an implied basis for comparison rather than an explicit one, and when you do that it is very important that the reader makes the correct implication. Something as simple as a comma before "that clutched at the little camp like a jealous lover" would help. (EDIT3: I actually agree that using an implicit simile in the situation reads better than the explicit one would do, but those things are so darn dangerous. As the old joke goes: "Oh, Susan, you are like the sea!" - "Because I am so wild, reckless, and romantic?" - "No, Susan, because you may me feel sick".)

Because other interpretations of the text as written is that it is the searchlights' dispelling that's like a jealous lover (somehow - what does a jealous lover dispel?), that the gloom iself (rather than the gloom's cluching) is like a jealous lover (in some way unspecified - perhaps it is a hot and arbitrary gloom?) and... so on and so forth.

Now, it is entirely possible that every other reader read the intended meaning first and never thought of just what was written, but as the analytical person I am I find it hard to overlook, and it is amusing, when you think of it. Besides, I've read way too many of the entries to the Bulwer-Lytton contest over the years and have gained a healthy respect for deliberately mangled similes from that source.

And yes, this is a really minor nitpick, but I've always treated GTA as a way to aid and get aid with respect to technique rather than as a mutual back-patting society. :D
 
Last edited:

Rensslaer

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Last call for comments...
 

gela1212

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I could barely finish author 3's work. Really nicely written, but not all that great at keeping attention. Not having such large, overwhelming paragraphs would definitely help out in future work.
 

WelshDude

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I skimmed through the first part of author 4's work, but really liked it when we got to the dialogue. Just try to keep the intro short and crisp. As a writAAR, I try to keep mine to one sentence. :D
 

Rensslaer

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I apologize for having been inextricably drawn into RL to a point where I can't wrap this up this week -- I'll endeavour to announce the authors later in the week. Meantime, if there's anybody who would still like to add comments, there's a little time. Thanks, Welshdude and Gela1212 for stepping in with comments!

Renss
 

Rensslaer

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Well, long story short, I'm back minus my wisdom teeth :p <shameless necro/reminder>

-L

Welcome back! By some coincidence, I have the same excuse for my absence -- finishing a book -- and I will also be back to this within a few days, will post the authors, etc.

Congratulations on your book!

Sorry for the delay, folks!

Renss