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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

coz1

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Author #1:


The rain sounded heavily as it jumped off the glass, casting small light-piqued shadows over the room. The steam of hollow tapping rang out prominent in the room, which sat silently, aside from the low ticking of a deep wooded grandfather clock that stood watching over the stillness from a corner. A dusty air hung in the stillness, echoed in the rows of leather-bound books positioned proudly on the bookcases that lined the walls, and in the droves of ornaments and adornments afforded space on the dozen or so lacquered-brown table tops that edged the room.

This stillness was shattered as the door was pushed open carefully, revealing an immaculately dressed man balancing a silvered tray on his right hand. His face was stern, though not harshly so - more washed with a certain greyness, and accented by a kempt chestnut moustache that was streaked silently with pepper-grey hairs. He strode brazenly over to a table and placed the tray down conservatively, before proceeding to lift from the tray, with equal care, a crystal decanter, setting it down on a small end table that stood quietly between two high backed chairs. The man stepped over to the side of the room, his hands touching behind his back, as he was followed into the room.

William entered casually, smiling as he nodded a discreet greeting to his valet. He was smartly dressed, suited in a well-cut, dark jacket that lay closely over a duck-egg blue waistcoat and crisp white collared shirt. Around the collar, a deep, Prussian blue cravat was tied expertly, hanging comfortably above the waistcoat He cut a sharp figure as he walked purposely over towards one of the chairs, lowering himself steadily onto the green buttoned leather. He poured himself a drink from the decanter, staring out of the neatly painted sash window onto the rain-lacquered street.

"I've always hated the rain," William said perfunctorily without shifting his gaze.

"I'm sorry, sir?" The valet's reply was nonchalant, with all the verve of his master's initial statement.

"The rain, Garton," William repeated as if answering everything, turning in his chair to face the middle-aged man, "I was just saying how I had never cared for it." Garton cocked his head slightly in an inquisitive manner.

"I see, sir," the valet answered in a manner that verged on curtly lackadaisical. Garton's clipped baritone was left hanging stationary in the dusty air, William engaging himself in the reading of one of the morning's broadsheets. It was the kind of silence that made the valet uncomfortable. "Might I ask why, sir?"

"I'm sorry, Garton?" William's voice was superficially measured - very deliberate, the calm figure wishing to hide his annoyance at being interrupted.

"I apologise if I have overstepped myself, sir," Garton backpedalled coolly, "I merely asked if you might elaborate on why you think of the rain in such a manner." The valet's explanation stretched out unbearably, Garton speaking as if he knew the response halfway through the sentence. In truth, he probably did, having worked for his master since before he was even the Duke of Clarence. Garton knew what each subtle contortion of William's expression or posture meant. He therefore needed no telling that he had been too forward. His question was met with silence. Precisely the silence he had wished to avoid. It was a silence that could be heard in the short gaps between the rain's marcato hammering. In the gentle ticking of the grandfather clock. In the stillness of the drink in the decanter. As William spoke once more, the valet felt the nervous relief of a man told the prospect of his imminent death was only ever an elaborate joke.

"Holcoate shall be arriving soon, Garton," began William, turning once again to meet his valet's eye, "would you see to it that the Phaeton is readied?"

"Of course, sir." His master's tone told him all he needed to know. Yes, you were wrong to bring up the topic in such a manner. No, there wouldn't be any more conversation this morning. Garton was unsure, but, hidden within the nuances of the phrase he was sure he heard 'I may tell you another time,' yet the hint was so well hidden the valet suspected he was being optimistic. Garton left the room with a silently relieved alacrity.



Francis Dudley sat busily on a bench at one end of The Mall. The rain had intensified, and was now bouncing violently back from the dusty clay-red bricks in front of him. Around him, a handful of top hat-clad gentlemen went urgently about their business, looking to escape the downpour. Francis smiled, running his hands through his dishevelled mess of black hair, which was speckled with crystal water droplets. He seemed oblivious to the weather, his eyes wide and sheened - not feral, but verging scarily close.

He let out a short, guttural laugh. Vituperative rain. Perfidious rain. Perfidious Albion. Perfidious rain over perfidious Albion. Francis brushed a small cluster of droplets off his sleeve with a disarming brusqueness. It had rained too long. Three years was short for a good rain, but for a poor one - a merciless rain that afforded no aid to the soil and halted busy streets, turning unclouded skies into dour grey affairs. Three years was already far too long. Francis had decided long ago that he could take not one month more of rain.



Arthur Adair Holcoate arrived at Clarence House at twelve minutes past eleven o'clock. A young liveried footman showed him through to the drawing room, where William had now been reading for half an hour. A brief knock announced the pair's entrance, the footman tentatively shuffling into the room slightly ahead of the visitor. The young man spoke, William not looking up from his broadsheet.

"The Earl of Holcoate, sir." He announced with as much volume as he could manage. William looked up, curving his mouth into a curt, apologetic smile.

"My apologies, Addison, I hadn't noticed you enter. You may leave now." Addison gave a small bow, leaving the two men alone in the room. William gestured for his visitor to take a seat next to him, folding his broadsheet neatly in half and placing it back on one of the side tables. To his right, Holcoate had sat himself down somewhat awkwardly on the other chair, upholstered in the same buttoned leather.

"Good morning Arthur," William started with a sincere warmth. "I trust the journey from Westminster was not too arduous?"

"Thank you, Your Majesty. I took the Landau, so I was sheltered from the rain at least." The Earl turned towards the window as he spoke, following the cascading droplets with his eyes.

"That is good to hear. This rain is quite damnable. One can hardly believe it is May." William gestured towards the crystal decanter, smiling to himself. "Might I offer you a drink?" Arthur smiled, shaking his head.

"Thank you, but I must decline - not before midday. Though I would be much obliged if you would allow me a quick cigarillo." Arthur reached preemptively into his jacket, unnoticed by William, who was pouring himself a tumbler of bourbon.

"No drink before midday? Anyone would think you a Tory, Arthur." He noticed the visitor's hand halfway under his lapel.*"Please," he waved acceptingly,*"feel free." Arthur gave a thank you, taking out a silvered cigarillo case and lighter. The orange glow of the lit tip contrasted starkly with the room's muted palette, giving some warmth. A thin, light grey smoke quickly began to float rhythmically towards the ceiling. It smelled rich. William spoke.

"What time are we to leave?" He said it almost as small talk.

"We have a good twenty minutes yet, sir." Arthur shifted his focus to William's tumbler, smiling. "You'll have time to finish your drink."



Francis was still sat in The Mall, his left hand absentmindedly sliding its way over his now sodden jacket. It rose and fell as it hit a well-concealed bump. Francis smiled as he felt his fingers over the undulations, made less prominent by the jacket's thick material, completely obscuring any shape. He took his hand off his lap and clapped suddenly, rubbing his hands together as if waiting impatiently. He was waiting impatiently. Waiting for the rain to end. Waiting to steal a glimpse of Fate.



Arthur and William sat opposite each other as the Phaeton turned left out of Stable Yard Road, Arthur watching as St James' moved backwards into the distance, William greeting The Mall as they turned another left. The two sat in silence, the rain sending a muted drumming through the chassis as it rebounded off the carriage's cover, acting as a sort of countermelody to the steady sound of the horses' hooves hitting the road.

Arthur shuffled in his seat, his eyes catching a rain-sodden man sat on a bench as he turned.

"What a peculiar thing to do," he muttered to himself. William turned his focus towards the Earl attentively.

"I'm sorry?" Arthur gestured to the man, who sat running his hands compulsively*through his dripping hair.



Francis stiffed excitedly, Fate pulling closer towards him. He reached into his jacket, rain wetting his waistcoat as his hand delved into an interior pocket. He was still smiling as he brought his hand out of his jacket, clasping the dark wooded grip of a pistol. Using his other hand, he brought out a single bullet, cupping it in his hand to try and shield it from the rain. He pressed it carefully into position, lifting the gun to Fate.

Now the rain ends.



A ugly bang cracked through air, sending the two horses into panic, the Phaeton swerving towards the middle of the road. William went towards the carriage floor, his hands covering his head protectively. Arthur watched on incredulously, seeing the gunman's face change to a look of deadly seriousness. He shouted something to the driver, who reined the horses to an abrupt halt. He reached down to William, who was still sat with his head pressed under his hands.

"William?" The King retook his straightened position conservatively, visibly blanched.*"Are you alright, Your Majesty?" William patted himself down, colour gradually returning to his features.

"It would seems so." He turned to face the gunman, who hadn't moved from his firing position. Without warning, he dismounted the carriage, moving boldly towards him. Arthur was quick to follow. The gunman stared passively as William stood before him, not flinching as Arthur twisted his arms behind his back.

"And so the rain continues."
 

coz1

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Author #2


Raf hated rain.

Rain poured from the dark sky, cloaking everything it touched in wetness. There was no light from fires – the rain made those impossible. His entire regiment huddled in small clusters, or by themselves, miserably passing the time between thunderclaps. Each cowered beneath an oilskin which shed most of the water, but they were wholly inadequate to prevent seepage from getting onto the soldiers in dribs and drabs.

The trees around him were dark, as was the trail. The muddy rise on either side of the trail was held together only by a sodden mush of vegetation. He could see only a few of his fellow soldiers, even mere feet away from him. Unless the lightning flashed, and then he could see everything, stark for a moment. At least until the scenery faded into the blurry distance, cloaked also from view by a million raindrops.

Raf held his rifle sideways across his lap, so that water didn’t enter the barrel. That was probably a hopeless hope, but he hoped nonetheless. He huddled over his rifle, as to stand – to walk about for warmth – would be to soak his boots anew, and they had presently arrived at a stasis he was comfortable with. Clammy leather clung to his socks, and the socks clung coldly to his skin, and they all seemed about the same temperature. But at least his boots were not squishy.

Raf hated rain.

Down the line, he heard shouts, growing louder as some new command was passed down. “Company, assemble!” Raf looked at his neighbor, skeptically, who looked at him resignedly… and then they both rose, adjusting their oilskins so the rain didn’t get in their face. En route to his squad’s formation, his boots squished, and he was cold anew. He hoped they would march – only then would he become warm again.

Standing in formation, the raindrops pelted his hood, then splashed upon the ground in rivulets off his shoulders. He tried to ignore the cloying embrace of freezing water lapping around his feet inside his boots.

A flash of lightning illuminated the sergeant’s face, as he drew near. “We’re going to hit the town in about an hour. We’ve got to march fast and hope to surprise them. With any luck, they’ll be drunk, and we can take the whole lot of them.” His shout drowned out a few hopeful cheers – men hoping to be able to loot afterward. “No soldier is allowed to drink booze that you find! You can take it with you, but if you so much as open the bottle tonight, so help me….” That was sufficient chastisement, and silence reigned again.

“Move out!”

The roar of the rain dampened the sound of their footsteps – a thousand boots hitting the puddles at once sounded scarcely different from a flood of water doing the same. The only sound to liven the march was the occasional oath of some poor sod who had slipped in the mud. They moved, as if pushing through a wall of water.

After marching – for how long, Raf had no concept – they came to a place where they stopped. Raf looked up to consider, and at just that moment a spectacular bolt of lightning ripped open the blackness and revealed the shadow of a building overlooking their path. They were at the town! Were there guards? He couldn’t tell – as soon as he raised his face, rain clawed into his eyes and he had to look away.

Raf hated rain.

It was time! Why was there no command? The sergeant had said to do this quickly – why was everybody waiting? He wallowed in self-pity as he stood, and the rain battered away at his feeble defenses. Finally, a whisper came passed down the line. The charge was about to commence – remain quiet, and move when the man in front moved. Remain absolutely quiet!

While he counted the seconds, only two things impressed themselves upon his consciousness – the relentless crush of rain, and the fear that scouts or lookouts might, at any moment, see their column in the ravine below the village and sound the alarm. Lightning flashed, like the storm was trying to alert the enemy. “There! Don’t you see? Here, I’ll flash again!” Thunder cracked, and boomed, and pounded at them.

Finally, he sensed movement. Lightning revealed his whole line, ahead , beginning to jog forward, weapons at the ready. If they see us now, Raf thought, we are in their power. They have the high ground, they know where we are. We could never gain the heights. Disaster.

But no alarm came, at first. They ran and splashed, each soldier throwing himself into the spray set up by the man in front, stepping into the puddles already roiling from their passage.

And then…. Gunfire! They’d been found, but there was nothing for it but to run, and get to the top of the path as soon as possible. Soon, it became apparent that the firing was sporadic – his buddies were shooting sentries. There wasn’t an alarm sounded, and they’d achieved complete surprise! The enemy wasn’t formed up to kill them. Maybe they were drunk!

Once in the town, he struggled to peer through the rain and see where to go. There were soldiers stepping out of the buildings, tentatively, wondering what was going on. Had no sentries been posted? And the curious were shot down soon enough. Raf kept pressing forward.

Soldiers were entering houses, firing through the doors, breaking windows to see who was inside. Raf just kept going – there was more of the town ahead. Surely, the enemy would now be alerted, and he’d have to be ready to meet them with a hail of gunfire. One man stepped out – Raf took aim at his perplexed form,
and fired. He went down.

The lightning flashed, the thunder crashed, and… oddly… the sounds of the battle behind him were muffled by the sound of rain. Perhaps even dampened by the damp! And the dark, and rain, and roar had cloaked their approach to the town. The rain was protecting them! Ensuring their success!

Raf ran for the door where a man had just appeared to check on his friend. Raf and the man next to him both fired at the face peering out the door, and one of them hit. A second man fell in the doorway.

They ran to the door and began firing at anything in the well-lit interior that moved. Complete surprise. Complete inability to cope with what was going on, or to react.

That night, all but the few friendly casualties were celebrating. Since the victory had been so complete, and had allowed them to seize the high ground, their commanders had decided to keep the town – to shelter in its houses. The rain had stopped, and a mist hung about the town, but a bright moon illuminated things. Guards were posted, and Raf was one of them. He watched the landscape below as his friends enjoyed the warmth of fires – and, yes, drink – below. But he didn’t mind. He was flush with the thrill of victory, and a gladness to be alive.

Raf loved rain.
 

coz1

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Author #3


The Rain

Beginning as light wisps of moisture held high in the air above the Mediterranean Sea, westerly winds carried the light billow slowly across the world, ending over northern France as a bloated cloud, gorged on the lakes and rivers from Italy to Brittany with the help of the warm spring sun.

As the wind turned north, pushing the cloud toward it’s final destination, it bore witness to many things as it watched from the sky above. Leagues below, farmers were thankful to see the cloud as they stood over their parched fields, then stood dumbfounded as the fat cloud rolled past them without sharing a drop of it’s water.

Riding the wind, the cloud was witness to armies of soldiers, surrounding a great city. On one side, outside the walls was a king in red, shaking scrolls in his hand that proved him to be the rightful ruler of this land. On the other side was a king in blue, safe within his walls, scrolls in hand that proved himself to be the true ruler of the land. As boulders of fire were hurled into the city, the cloud stretched on.

The nimbus, too massive to carry on it’s journey over the world, released it’s body over the dry land below. The rain spilled onto the ground, permeating into the dry earth. Roots drank the life’s blood of the cloud, as did all life below. Dead grass, which had been burnt to ash under the hot sun, was now a thriving green, lush and beautiful. The rain, however, did not stop. Soon the land, drowning in water, choked and spit up its gift, fields turned to lakes, streams to rushing rivers, and lakes to oceans. What had once been parched, was now drowned.

Offering a brief respite, the heavy rain turned into a light drizzle, as soldiers trampled over a farmer’s field. One soldier, reigned his horse up to the farmhouse and climbed down as water lightly patted his helmed head and armored shoulders. Eager to get out of the rain, the man strode into the house. The building was well built against the rain, walls of stone and wood, straw tightly bundled over the roof. Though well armored, the rain was all pervasive, desperate to find its way within the home. Dripping through the straw, the rain found its way within, streaming down from the ceiling into a bucket on the floor.

In the house sat a farmer at his table, sullen and serious, the farmer was flanked by a soldier on either side of him. The horsemen from outside sat across from him, slowly pulled off his helmet and set it atop the table along with the plates of bread and cheese that shared the space.

“My name is Baron Peter of London, Royal Marshal to his majesty King Edward of England. Might I have the pleasure of your name?”

“Pierre, m’lord,” blinked the farmer.

“Pierre, you have my thanks for letting my men rest here. You are a most gracious host.” Peter reached for a slice of cheese, pushing past his flowing brown beard into his mouth. The farmer simply nodded. “We are on a mission of great import, you see. So I fear we may be residents upon you farm for some time, unless...”

“M’lord?”

“Unless we receive some reliable word on where the rebels are hiding and put them to the sword.” Pierre said nothing. The only sound was the steady drop of rain falling into the bucket. Peter sighed and turned to one of the soldiers, “the men must be hungry. Slaughter the cows.” The soldier saluted and left the house, into the light rain. Pierre’s mouth tightened but he remained silent. “A lovely family you have here, Pierre. I must admit, I am most envious.” A haunch of bread disappeared into Peter’s beard. “How old is your son?"

Pierre's face turned grim, his eyes never leaving the tabletop. "This shall be his fourteenth spring."

"Fourteen? A shame he is not of age. A lad as strong as him would make a fine addition to the king's army. Though, i suppose amendments could be made in return for your hospitality." Peter smiled through his beard. "And your daughter?"

Pierre was still as stone.

"A fine lass of, what? Twelve? Thirteen?" Continued Peter. "The King's army can make use of her, I assure you."

Pierre attempted to rise from his seat. The soldier behind him laid a heavy hand on his shoulder and pinned him to his seat. The rain danced on the windowsill along the wall, its tranquil melody filling room and doing little to relieve the tension as marshal and farmer bore cold stares into each other.

"You will not touch my daughter," said the farmer, finally, in a voice cold as ice.

Peter's wrath filled the room as he exploded from his seat, flipping the table over, sending the plates of bread and cheese colliding against the wall. Pierre sat still, his steady gaze never leaving this leader of armies. Grabbing the man in his strong hands, Peter threw the farmer out the front door into a puddle of mud. The rain kissed his brow and gently washed the mud from his face as he stared up at Peter standing over him. The marshal's face was red with wroth. "Look upon me, for I am God. I will tear down your world and lay it asunder at your feet. All that you love and hold dear will be snatched away and you will be left with nothing. A pitiful old man crying into the night upon a field sowed with salt, a daughter raped and a son dead. Think hard on your next words for if they anger me, all my threats will come to pass... for I am God."

The farmer sobbed and broke under the anger of Marshal Peter of London, and told him all he knew of the rebels which he pursued. Peter was indeed pleased, for he let Pierre keep his daughter, though he invoked the right of conscription on his son.

"Pray that we are given a swift victory, for the sake of your son." And with that Peter's men left the farm to continue their hunt.

Days past and still the rain persisted. A cold wind came out of the north, carrying a large thunderhead to clash with the great southern rain cloud. The two circled and did battle, casting lightening at each other and sending the clash of thunder ripping through the air. As it was above, it was below. Baron Peter of London had lured the rebels onto a field of mud and both sides charged to the lament of great claps of thunder. The sky was black and cast the world below in utter darkness as north and south did battle. The rains hailed down and pelted the fighting soldiers below, blinding and confusing them. Peter and his men cursed the sky and did not see the countless shadows that fled from the field.

Shrouded in the fog of war, the field below was one of eternal death. Each soldier, blind, could only push forward, killing all in his path. The only vision came from the brief flash of lightening from the warring clouds above, and that was obscured by the dark mud that was kicked up and now covered the coats of every fighter. Hours passed as steel bit steel, thunder followed lightening, and blood mixed with rain. The two clouds began to dissipate in the air and the sun shone once more. Great calls of victory rang up from Peter and his men as they seemed to be the only survivors of the battle. However, the feel of victory soon gave way to a sinking doubt as no rebel bodies could be found on the battlefield.

Men emerged from the trees. Their many boots trampled through the mud puddles as they stepped out on the field. In dismay, the survivors found they were now surrounded by rebels and greatly outnumbered. The man who fancied himself God shook his fist and cursed the rain, even after he lost his head. The supplies of the army were taken and given over to families and a son was reunited with his father. The sun smiled down at the victors. Victors who won, not for the glory of king and country, but for the poor who fell victim to the games of power played by their lords.
 

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The long awaited return is finally here, and might I say how good it is to see GtA back. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's missed it - though I didn't have the pleasure of being involved in AARland the first time around. Here's to many more!

Now, onto what this is really about - the feedback.

Author #1: The first GtA submission for what is now nearly two years. As I read (and then reread) the opening, I was struck that it seemed a bit - to steal an adjective from the piece - clipped. I think that may be more to do with how I read it, but some of it felt a bit... jolted. It felt a bit like the introduction needed to perhaps be taken a bit slower. Some of the dialogue certainly seemed a bit rushed.

I would also point out what I would see as an excess of adverbs. I think this is characterised in this sentence:

He strode brazenly over to a table and placed the tray down conservatively, before proceeding to lift from the tray, with equal care, a crystal decanter, setting it down on a small end table that stood quietly between two high backed chairs.

We have brazenly already, so following it with conservatively doesn't really flow (for me at least.) There is also a quietly in there, but that goes by, well, quietly, and doesn't really impact on the reading.

I was a fan of the description - though I'm yet to work out whether there was a bit too much of the stuff. Some of the word choices in particular were intriguing. Having a mustache streaked silently with pepper-grey hairs, for example, or the street being rain-lacquered.

Interesting choice going for the horizontal rules - perhaps a simple -- would have sufficed? The rules can look a bit cumbersome, especially towards the end were we have one paragraph sandwiched by the things. By the time we reach the first one, I can't work out whether I'm left largely intrigued or bored - there are certainly a lot of unanswered questions by the time the scene changes, which I think should hook me into reading more. I'm not entirely sure they did.

Francis Dudley is an interesting character, though. I got the change of pace with his paragraphs - though I think the rules make it a bits too explicit. Perhaps the change would have benefitted from being a bit more subtle? It seems like stream of consciousness, which I think was meant to portray him maybe as being somewhere on the autism scale. His eyes that are sheened and scarily close to feral certainly make him seem mad in some way, which is an interesting spin on things. Why he has been introduced, though, I have - at this point, anyway - no idea. Again, this could either hook or bore. I get the impression that all these hints are meant to keep us on board for the entire story, but it almost ends up making everything rather slow.

After the second rule we get a nice piece of dialogue, where we see William as a more light-hearted character to the dour, rain hating man of the introduction. Holcoate seems like he could be an interesting character if the story was ever given a chance to develop further. At this point, we also get hints as to who people are - possibly a bit too late, but I'm not sure. Judging by the quip about Tories, I would imagine Holcoate is a politician - also present in the journey from Westminster. Maybe Prime Minister, going by the Earldom? And William gets a Your Majesty, so it looks like we're dealing with a king, which makes me wonder if this is an alternate timeline, with a William V instead of Victoria?

The next Dudley paragraph is interesting, with references to Fate. Somehow I get the impression he's not talking about fate - maybe a Fate-on (Phaeton?) The same would go for the rain, which seems to have been used when Dudley is describing the reign of the king. Maybe a possibility, maybe I'm just looking into it too much.

Here I would mention the asterisks - probably the result of a double space, or 'unnecessary' space (as far as BBCode is concerned, anyway.) These annoy me - both when I find them in my writing and others', so I'd urge everyone to check their work for them before publishing.

As for the conclusion, it felt a tad rushed - though it is already a long piece, so that could be due to time constraints. Maybe tightening the beginning and giving the end more space to breathe? The less imporatant aspects of the story seem to get more attention than they need, and vice versa. The last line would make me think my earlier prediction a to the nature of the rain is correct, and is actually a nice linguistic device.

Overall, a solid piece.

[I'll come back post my thoughts in the others when I have time.]
 

J. Passepartout

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I will briefly review each as I read them, so that my memory of a given one won't dim my memory of the others. Story number one goes first.

The pacing mostly worked well on this one. I was able to gradually realise the exact nature of what was going to happen, along with who William happened to be, over the course of the story, and it was able to draw things out to a good length overall, like the long rain. The scenes with Francis probably should have been lengthened or reduced, though. I'd probably remove the middle one or merge it with one of the others, as involving the least amount of reworking.

I agree that there was too much on the adverbiage. There are times where that will work well, but adverbs usually work better when usually absent.

---

I now return to edit in my review of the second story. This had some good lines in it, such as the boots reaching an acceptable stasis of wetness. There was a good focus on water and dripping and squishiness that made it clear how seemingly little Raf cared about this fight, and more about wishing he was dry, or at least not so damp. The one objection I have may merely be a flaw in myself, which is that when the lightening and dark towers started happening, I was expecting ominous dark events like a vampire or having the regiment be surprised by an even larger regiment, or something, but what actually did happen works well.

---

Edit number three: Like most of the reviewers, I rather likes the rain clouds moving around and all. That worked well enough that I almost wonder if we should have stayed at the cloud level of perspective and not gone to the level of detail that learning names involves. It's mainly in the transition that work needs to be done, although I still was finding the rain clouds more compelling to read about even so. Baron Peter's and farmer Pierre's problems are interesting, but not quite enough that a cloud view wasn't more intriguing.
 
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I'll comment and make no guesses since I have no idea:

nr 1
I second the overdescriptiveness of the first paragraphs. Too many heavily/silently/softly and so on. There are also a handful of spelling errors, but okay, that happens.

About the story, I feel it's good prose but it's short a bit of tension. The attack comes rather out of the blue (for me; maybe it's more obvious for others?) and so this would seem a better story if we had known from before that Francis was out to 'get' William (or Holcoate/Arthur). I've heard something about 2/3rd tension buildup, 1/3rd tension release. Here we have more 2/3rd description/world building, 1/3rd tension and release. Excellent if this was the first chapter/prologue of a book, but it somewhat lessens the story on its own.

But I did get a 'feel' due to the overdescriptiveness and world building, so by no means, author 1, cut it. Just remember to trim it a bit, especially when you're short of words to build the world AND the story.

Also I am amused by British complaining about rain in May, but Dutch people complain too so it works ;)

nr 2
Good opening, if a bit dreary. I note here a better balance, with a paragraph or two about rain-hating and then an attack being launched. Even if I find rain-haters miserable people who don't deserve to be in stories :p

The ending works, too, but I think the hate doesn't come through after the charge starts. We got it, sure, but Raf seems to have lost his hate of rain far before he said it in his mind.

Overall, a nice story, which I think stands by itself even if the tension is rather muffled by the rain ;)

nr 3
I like the rainstory, but it again feels somewhat world-buildingish, while the actual story only starts with Peter and Pierre (and in which country north of Brittany are the peasants Pierre and the nobles Peter anyway? ;) ). I feel it's inspired on the Wheel of Time books, where a slightly longer piece of weather starts a whole book, which I think is a better balance.

The story itself starts a bit clunky, I feel, but gets more powerful when Peter starts being a bastard. "In the house sat a farmer at his table, sullen and serious, the farmer was flanked by a soldier on either side of him." I think skipping the second 'the farmer' would make the sentence flow better.

The story after looks good, even if Peter and Pierre are getting confused in my mind to the point where I was questioning WHO was angry; it said Peter but it took my mind a while to adjust to the fact that it really meant Peter. Maybe a bit more buildup could help.

The ending is also rather happy-happy, but then, that's also nice for a change.



Also for all, I did like the stories even if I have criticism. None were a chore to read, au contraire.
 

DensleyBlair

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I'm back to review the second piece, and to give this thread a small bump. Come on people - voice your opinions! However succinct, I'm sure the authors will appreciate them.

That said, here are my thoughts on the second piece:

Author #2: I like the brevity of the opening statement. It gives a really nice means of I trouncing the character, and gets the reader involved in the story straight away. I feel like I've heard the name Raf before in a character, though I can't think where... We get some good description in the first paragraph. I can really get a sense of the unpleasantness (if we are to out things mildly) of the situation, and, by extension, a good idea of Raf's own thoughts on the matter.

I thought the continued presence of the rain at the forefront of the story worked well. It really added to the mood of the piece. The paragraph with the boots worked well in this regard - acting as a neat little way of developing our view of Raf. The reiteration of the first line was also nice - sort of thing the piece together.

I thought the next paragraph was a tad hard to read - not in that it was illegible, but in that it didn't flow, to me at least, as well as its forebears. I think this was exemplified in the following sentence:

[...]Raf looked at his neighbor, skeptically, who looked at him resignedly… and then they both rose[...]

I think this is another case of adverb overload. This is how I would've written it.

Raf looked at his neighbour sceptically. He received a look of resignation by way of reply. They both rose.

This also eliminates the ellipsis, which is probably what makes that not flow for me more than anything. I would also note here that the speech could be perhaps be made a bit more clear. This could be done by simply spacing out the speech, and giving each new speaker a new line. For example, this:

A flash of lightning illuminated the sergeant’s face, as he drew near. “We’re going to hit the town in about an hour. We’ve got to march fast and hope to surprise them. With any luck, they’ll be drunk, and we can take the whole lot of them.” His shout drowned out a few hopeful cheers – men hoping to be able to loot afterward. “No soldier is allowed to drink booze that you find! You can take it with you, but if you so much as open the bottle tonight, so help me….” That was sufficient chastisement, and silence reigned again.

Could become:

A flash of lightning illuminated the sergeant’s face, as he drew near.

“We’re going to hit the town in about an hour. We’ve got to march fast and hope to surprise them. With any luck, they’ll be drunk, and we can take the whole lot of them.” His shout drowned out a few hopeful cheers – men hoping to be able to loot afterward. “No soldier is allowed to drink booze that you find! You can take it with you, but if you so much as open the bottle tonight, so help me….” That was sufficient chastisement, and silence reigned again.

We are soon reminded of Raf's thoughts of the rain. As I said before, I like the repetition here. It does a lot for the piece. Here, though, I would say that I think there are a few too many exclamation marks for my liking in the next few paragraphs. I'm not sure what others think, but I like to use them as sparingly as possible - though I guess it comes down to personal preference. When there are four in two paragraphs, though, I think it comes across more that I'm being shouted at than Raf (or the lightning - I liked the little comment here, by the way; very effective) exclaiming anything.

I liked the change of pace in the next few paragraphs. It echoed the change in situation very nicely. The last part was well done, as with the rest of the piece, though I still felt that there were a few too many ellipses and exclamation marks. I also liked the ending sentence. It closed the piece very nicely, and I found it rather intersting that Raf would be so fickle in his views. Maybe reflecting how grateful he was to still be alive? In any case, it was nicely done.

Overall, a very nice piece. It could maybe do with a little bit of revision in terms of punctuation, but very nicely done. I have no clue as to the author.

I'll be back to do the third later on.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Good to see GTA back alive. Let`s see, the topic was rain. The results prove two points. We are in a forum of a strategy game publisher, for the cast of the stories boils down to nobles, soldiers and battles. The other thing is, that in all three stories the rain is not a mild summer shower with a few small drops falling out of a bright sky, leaving behind a wet surface for half an hour and maybe a rainbow. No, we are talking about the-great-flood-style of rain. Including thunderstorms, darkness and thick clouds. Now one could argue, that the weather conditions shall emphasize the topic of the story (assassination, war) and thus act as booster. And that`s okay. But in the second and even more so in the third story it also acts as kind of Deus Ex Machina, to make a twist in the story possible. That`s of course not a crime, but feels a bit meh.

Story 1

In “western” movies, the whole thing is a lot about the story and action, but in movies from east asia, there is room to depict moods of the people or the atmosphere of a specific location. And that is something I really like in movies and books, since it is important to me. So the initial description was perfect. Unfortunately one can`t keep these standards in such a short story. That is why at the end the plot seems to speed up, for the King and his companion are suddenly at that place with that guy and his pistol. The assassin is obviously a bit unstable in the mental department and wants to sacrifice the King to the weather God. Well, the assassination fails and the King himself disarms the assassin. End of story.

Now don`t get me wrong, but the story lacks somewhat a point. Maybe a witty gentleman-line about how this incident does make them being late for tea or something like that. Maybe it is just me, but the end felt a bit bland.

Story 2

First off: I think the moral of the story is wrong. “Raf hates rain” – Raf successfully attacks a city – “Raf loves rain”. I think the proper line would be: “Raf loves it, when a plan comes together.”. At least one should be doubtful if Raf would still love the rain when the story had ended with the attack being a failure and himself lying near the city wall with a bayonet in his guts.

Apart from that it was a decent story. As I said, I love descriptions, so a bit more of it (sweat, heartbeat, fear, agony) wouldn`t have hurt, but nevertheless I like the setting.

Story 3

To whoever wrote this: I want to give you a big fat bro` hug. And then I want to punch you in the face.

This story starts with an absolute incredible idea. A huge rain cloud slowly moving over a landmass, describing what happens beneath it:

“Riding the wind, the cloud was witness to armies of soldiers, surrounding a great city. On one side, outside the walls was a king in red, shaking scrolls in his hand that proved him to be the rightful ruler of this land. On the other side was a king in blue, safe within his walls, scrolls in hand that proved himself to be the true ruler of the land. As boulders of fire were hurled into the city, the cloud stretched on.”

When I read this I thought: Holy Mother of God, this will be ******* awesome. This will be great literature in a “It was the best of all times, it was the worst of all times”-kind of way.

And then? AND THEN? Then you give me a broad brush villain who has it coming to him, when, after a most weird battle, poetic justice comes his way. Really? REALLY? This is like as if one goes to the cinema, expecting to see “Lincoln”, but suddenly is trapped with “Titanic”. I feel bereft of a great piece of work. :(
 

Rensslaer

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Great to see GTA up and running again! Thanks, Coz, for resurrecting this! And thanks to the writers who are submitting their work to criticism.

Now, I'll just say right off that my creative writing experience taught me to give good, solid, unflinching criticism as a means toward improving the authors' work. Authors benefit most from this, and thereby it's "constructive criticism" at its best. But experience with GTA reminds me that not all authors who submit their work are ready for bold criticism. So I simply offer that "it's for your own good" and will also say if we didn't really value your time and effort in writing, we wouldn't take the time to give feedback! :)

I'm a bit late to the party because I'm on a trip with little time to write. Today I'm taking a "vacation from vacation" and I'll do some of the stuff I really enjoy doing from home anyway, like hanging out on the Forum.

I'll start with Story #3, since most people start from #1.

Story 3:

First off, I think the perspective we start out with is tremendous -- it reminds me of the intro graphics to V2, where you're watching a world form, and then you pull out to see the letter "o" and then "Victoria". It was so clever a story technique, in fact, that I found it a bit jarring when you left it, and you were suddenly watching a single, small-scale scene play out. At the same time, you did effectively "bring us into the room" through the roof, so you did transition. It works relatively well.

In any case, the visualization and imagery is tremendous! It does also remind me of our view, as players, when we're looking around the EU3 world, and then zoom in. I'm guessing this was intentional on the author's part.

It's really well written, except for a typo that stands out mainly because it's alone. A rider "reins" his horse, but doesn't typically "reign" one (this could be argued :)). Word choices and general vocabulary are very good.

I don't see the "white hat - black hat" thing here, really, though there's always a risk with this kind of setup. These may be very good and very bad characters, but they don't seem out of place. Brutality in the time of the setting wasn't at all unusual, especially from those who have tremendous power, and are sent on a mission to "rough the place up".

Peter is a subtle manipulator, until he takes his mask off and gets really angry. I really liked the whole interchange -- nice touch of the patter of rain on the window as it all goes on. One small thing I might comment on is that I couldn't really "see" Peter throwing the table aside -- I can't visualize how it could physically happen. It seems to me he would either tip in over into Pierre, or... just what I don't know. I suppose it could have been flung sideways. Perhaps more description could make it more understandable, or else the author could just switch to another way of showing Peter's anger. Throwing the farmer out the door was another angry motion I couldn't quite visualize physically (this may be a hangup I have -- pedantic attention to how something physically happens). Maybe Peter could have "wrestled" the farmer to the door and thrown him out into the mud?

The ending, I think, was too pat. Too fairy-tale. In studying history I feel like anytime the "good guys" or "poor guys" rise up and overthrow their oppressors, new "used-to-be-poor-guys" rise up and become tyrants, and the same people who suffered before suffer again. But that's just my perspective.

Overall, this is a solid piece. The writing is very good, pacing and storyline is well done, and overall concept is good. All of these GTA stories suffer from not enough time to polish them. So I trust with more time and reflection this would turn out to be a magnificent piece of writing!

Thanks!

Rensslaer

(more constructive criticism on the other 2 stories later)
 

coz1

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Excellent to see some critiques of our writAARs! Some good discussion pieces as well. I appreciate that so many have offered good constructive criticism with hints as how one might better their craft. Please keep it coming. I don't want to leave the thread sitting too long without a reveal but we are only about a week plus since posting so I will hold off on the reveal until May 10th. That gives another week plus to get your critiques in.

If you have never participated in GtA, please do not feel shy in joining in. It's all in good fun and hopefully educational to both writer and reader alike. :)
 

Gen. Marshall

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Well, I guess I shall join the happy crowd in here as representative of the HOI3 section :rolleyes:

Like the most of you, I shall offer critique on each story independently, and I shall start with No. 3. Forgive me though, for the brevity of my comments - some of your replies look like they were made in the time in which I make an entire chapter for my AAR.

Number Three
This probably says more about me than the author, but the first thing that strikes me is the misuse of it's... But oh well, that's a minor issue. On to more important comments, and first and foremost I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. The intro thingy and the weather serving as a metaphor set the stage nicely, and I could really imagine the soldiers visiting the poor farmer's hut. Then, rather than jumping straight into the action, there's a tense conversation in the hut. Although the conversation was jumpy at times, I really liked that. In fact, if I had written this, I'd have left out the last couple of paragraphs altogether. Make this end as the conversation ends, throw in another weather metaphor, and you have a brilliant story.

Edit: Number Two
Since I can't avoid comparing this one to No. 3, let's just start with that. One very important element from that story is missing, or at least incomplete, in the latter part of this story: proper surroundings. While reading about the soldiers charging through the forest, suddenly there's a ravine, and quite haphazardly the soldiers are teleported into "a" village. Where is this all happening? What does the ravine look like, and how does one run from the ravine to the village? If anything, it should have been mentioned more clearly that like us, Raf didn't know of his surroundings because of the storm. That being said, the writing itself was great, and save the few times I was perplexed by the sudden shifts, this story ran fluently and was fun to read.

Edit: Number One
I could not make any sense of those first three paragraphs. An introduction needs to captivate the reader, inspire him to read on, and at that the introduction failed miserably: I was not captivated at all. However, when reading on, I found that the story was actually pretty good. The writing became smoother, and the plot more intriguing. Using two storylines in such a small story is daring, but for me it worked, and I was eagerly seeking connections between the two. The well-concealed bump did it for me: this was an assassin. Now, can somebody please tell me what Fate stands for?

Edit: Some very poor guesses
Writer 1: Mr. Capiatlist
Writer 2: Deaghaidh
Writer 3: Probably the only one I actually know
 
Last edited:

Rensslaer

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Sorry it took me so long to get back to this! I started with Author 3, and now I'm hitting Author 1. I'll hope to get around to Author 2 soon.

Author #1

Ahh, I know who this is! I can guess the author! The author is… A fan of Downton Abbey! :D I really like the first scene – it really does have that feeling to it.

A small niggle I have relates to over-anthropomorphizing – in the first couple of sentences we have rain jumping and a room sitting and a clock watching. Everything in moderation – the clock is the most appropriate of these, and is quite clever. The others are too much, in my opinion.

And measure is important. I got all kinds of grief, once, when I did a size-7 “CRASH” of a door – readers were sure a bomb had just gone off, but it was just the dowager empress barging her way in. :D The stillness being “shattered” by a door “pushed open carefully” is one of those minor errors of nuance (more minor than mine, certainly, but I wished to illustrate). It creates a bit of a disconnect when you realize, “Oh, it’s just Jeeves.” Maybe the stillness rippled. Or was simply broken. Or disturbed.

It’s a brilliant and worthy scene – the first couple of paragraphs – just overdone with adjectives, etc. It’s quaint because it’s domestic and comforting. It’s perfect because it sets the tone and setting for the whole story. But measure – too much can take the focus off the mood and onto the writing, and a writer rarely wants readers to notice the words, per se. The writer wants readers to catch the mood.

Even in the 3rd paragraph, consider that you’re trying to balance pace, which is important for the readability of the story, with description. And you want to describe everything perfectly. But every parenthetical statement, every comma, every adjective, can be an obstacle to the pacing. You need some, obviously, but decide which are necessary, and which slow the story down.

But the rest of that first scene is magnificent. It’s a delicate thing to get the tension right, but I think you did a really good job. Here, the advice I gave above is reversed – you’re USING the extra sentences to extend the tension. The longer it takes the reader to get through the paragraph, the more extended the tension is – the more palpable it is. You’re just adding it on – the intentional awkwardness works for you, as an author, drawing the reader in. Nicely done!

2nd scene – now the rain is bouncing. Metaphorically, we know rain can dance. But bounce or jump? Dunno. Maybe I’m too literal. :)

The description of Francis works – sets the mood, lets us know his personality by showing, not telling. The sentences speak beyond themselves.

I love the period hints left in each of the scenes – the objects, mannerisms, etc, which tell us when this story happens. Phaetons, landaus, broadsheets…

In the 3rd scene I sense urgency, but William is too British to be bothered. A gentleman must never run, but always walk. Well done characterization, even with just a few sentences.

Next scene – rebounding rain. Much better! I like the mental picture. Visual and audible cues. Love it. What are those odd asterisks?

Hmm… Fate – Phaeton. Rain – Reign – Rein. Nice wordplay. Stiffed should be stiffened.

An interesting – and very British – reaction to having been almost assassinated. Nicely done! I really liked this piece, regardless of the few small niggles, which didn’t detract greatly, but I figured I should mention them.

Really no idea who the author might be. But great job!
 

Revan86

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Interesting! I have not participated in GTA before, but it looks like a fascinating concept!

I'm also going to apologise in advance here if my commentary seems too terse or impressionistic; but here are my tuppence:


Author 1.
I guess the biggest critique of the piece I would make is one I would very readily make of my own writing, and it looks like it has been mentioned above: be careful about overusing adjectives and adverbs. Nouns and verbs are your bread and meat; adjectives and adverbs are like spices - they can really add zest to a piece when used judiciously, but overuse ruins the dish, so to speak. I do love the quintessentially English, Victorian or interwar setting - that first scene with the valet rings incredibly true to type; I love it! Although, I will say, it is a bit of a giveaway in a story set in this archetype that a man named Francis is usually up to no good, heh. Looks like it may have been inspired a bit by Edward Oxford, no? And of course, the wordplay on 'rain' and 'reign' is excellent.

A couple of minor things, one depending on when the story is set. A Tory of this time would probably not be so likely to abstain from drinking, particularly one of the High variety - the tea-totallers would have been, if anything, amongst the Methodists and the Dissenters, but that's a truly minor quibble. In terms of broader thematics and pacing, I have no problems - this reads like a vignette, and it's plain to see how much effort you put into making it immersive. And assassinations are supposed to be sudden, with the action all happening in a flash. Would have been good to get a bit more of a hint at what was eating at Francis Dudley there, however. Other than that, fine show!


Author 2.
For one thing, I really like the engaging descriptions; the short, punctuating, fragmented sentences help establish the mood and the mindset of the man whose perspective we're taking. My biggest problem is that the story just seems kind of... flat and pointless, emotionally and thematically. Raf is marching into a battle he seems to expect to lose as he marches into it, but the deepest emotion of his we get treated to over the first half of the piece is, 'he hates the rain'. Maybe I would understand it more if you were trying to make a kind of L'Etranger-type point about a soldier's solipsism and emotional detachment from what he's doing, but the ending of the piece just seems to fly completely in the face of that. Or if you were expecting to make it more about his need for self-preservation, you might have added a touch more to the build-up in the first half.

The style of the writing is amazing, but the substance of the story kind of feels wanting in the weight you seem to want to give it through your use of the iteration 'Raf hates rain'.


Author 3.
[grammarnazi] Possessive of 'it' is 'its'! No apostrophe! Add an apostrophe and it's 'it is'! [/grammarnazi] Ahem. Sorry - just had to get that off my chest. One or two, is fine, but it gets too distracting for me if I see it over and over again.

The story strikes me as slightly disjointed - you set up an almost impressionistic, naturalistic description of the cloud as it moves over the scene where the actual story takes place, and then move into a character-centred piece, which makes for a drastic shift in perspective and tone. Now, drastic shifts in perspectives can be handled really well, but you have to have some broader overarching reason for it, and none really leapt out at me and presented itself until the very end, where I came away with: 'oh, I get it - the cloud is symbolising some kind of divine retribution for Baron Peter's hubris!' Which is good, but you might have given some partial hint of that in the beginning - made the tone a bit warmer, maybe, more personal, rather than giving this kind of nominal, detached narration. In the beginning I was coming away with was: 'and nature rolls on, looking upon the affairs of petty mortals with an aloof and uncaring eye'. I exaggerate here, of course, but can you see where I'm going with this?

Good writing overall; just the setting and thematic issues need some revision here. Let me just say that your character-centred piece in the middle was truly well-written, emotionally engaging even in just a few short lines of conversation; I just feel that it deserved far more than it got from the overall setting of the piece.
 
Last edited:

Mithfir

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I'll review briefly the entries. English is my 2nd language and as such, I'd rather not review choice of words, syntax and the rest. So, I'll give an overall impression of each. Here goes!

Author 1

I felt the story was too slow and became interesting near the very end. Too much descriptive text makes me lose my interest gradually. I did love how the story ended, bringing about a new familiar cycle of events.

Author 2

Good pacing. I followed the text without losing my concentration and interest. I would have liked a few more details concerning the back story, but otherwise, a good entry.

Author 3

Impressed with how the story ended. Didn't see it coming! An excellent balance of description, dialogue and paced action. My favourite entry of the 3. Slow start but it quickly flew with the rest of the story soon after.
 

Lord Durham

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Each story took the theme of rain and presented their own unique take (kind of like Iron Chef, but I digress). The posted commentaries and critiques succinctly covered anything I would point out, so there's no sense rehashing.

My following comments are general in nature, and apply to each entry. Bear in mind this has nothing to do with the quality of the writing (which was very good), or the use of the theme (again, very good). What you take away from my comments is totally up to you.

The biggest problem was structure. Each story spent an inordinate amount of space establishing the setting and characters but failed to deliver a proper climax and resolution. Taking the time for setting and character is good, if the tale is novella length or greater, but the nature of the GTA is more suited to a short story, or in some cases, flash fiction. What does this mean? It means you have limited space to grab the reader's attention and take him or her on a ride to a satisfying conclusion. In short, you should start the story with a bang and end it with a bang, or at the least, a meaningful ending. Too much time spent on setup usually results in a weak payoff, and the reader feels cheated. A friend in a writer's critique group I was involved with had a habit of saying "This is a good story, after you trash the first three pages." After grinding teeth over wasted effort, we would generally concede the man had a point. You have limited space to work with, so don't waste it.

In conclusion, jump into the tale with both feet, bring out any backstory and character development via dialogue, character mannerisms, and most importantly, showing, not telling. By the quality of the writing in these entries, I think each of you is more than capable.
 

coz1

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I know we are past the 10th but with a few late comments and some others likely still wanting to finish their critiques, I will hold off the reveal for a few more days. Still a bit of time to comment. Our writAARs will be made known soon and I'm sure chomping at the bit to respond to their various works. :)
 

coz1

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Well, here we are a little less than a month after the fact and I think the project of a new round of GtA has been a success! All of you have given some very astute criticism of the work and I hope that each writAAR has learned from their participation. I hope as well, that the commentAARs have been able to take something from the process as so many AAR writers love good feedback and this is some good stuff.

And now, for the reveal:




Author #1: DensleyBlair

The youngest member of the trio as he joined us in July of 2012 (may also be one of the younger forum members if I read correctly.) ;) As I look over past works, it looks as though he generally trends in the CKII area. Some of his AARs:

In the Footsteps of Charlemagne - The Second Coming of House Karling

There's nowt as queer as Norfolk... - A Norfolk AAR




Author #2: Rensslaer

Renss is a good and old friend of mine...not OLD but old in forum time. As well, he has been one that has tried to keep this very project alive as he can over the years. Many of you may know him from the Strategy Guides he has written for Paradox and surely you know him from his AARs as they a treasure. I am still beholden to this one:

Fire Warms the Northern Lands -- A Prussian AAR

He has many more, but I am still partial to Prussia. ;)




Author #3: BlackBishop

Another newbie :p and a welcome one (as they all are!) BlackBishop has also toiled away in CKII it seems and has a couple of AARs to highlight as well:

Of Blood and Honour

A Scream of Souls - SoIaF AAR

I cannot help but applaud the Song of Ice and Fire AARs in CKII. Some wonderful stuff all the way around, both in words written and game coded. Most impressive! The last above is a welcome addition, to be sure.



I'd like to give a huge thanks to these writAARs for putting their stuff out there for people to read and critique. It is not ever easy to read criticism, I don't believe. You need to have a heart of stone when someone is cutting those brilliant words you wrote. ;) But they do a terrific service when they can do it constructively and thus, I really want to thank our reviewAARs! I applaud the attempt of each and every one and I am sure so do our writers. Those that participate in having their work looked at without the eye of who wrote what can truly give us some excellent pointers. I know it has helped me in the past.

I do not normally give critique myself when I run the round as I know who wrote what, but I do have one niggling thought on these submissions and frankly, it is mine own fault that it is so. I gave out the subject of Rain and I thought it was a good one. However, the word itself was used so many times in each entry, as I read them I began to regret it. Personally, I hate it when I read through what I wrote and see a word overused. I cannot imagine what I would have done with this topic. ;)

Well done all of you and thank you for participating! Now you get the chance to respond. Have at it... :D
 

DensleyBlair

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The pacing mostly worked well on this one. I was able to gradually realise the exact nature of what was going to happen, along with who William happened to be, over the course of the story, and it was able to draw things out to a good length overall, like the long rain. The scenes with Francis probably should have been lengthened or reduced, though. I'd probably remove the middle one or merge it with one of the others, as involving the least amount of reworking.

I agree that there was too much on the adverbiage. There are times where that will work well, but adverbs usually work better when usually absent.

nr 1
I second the overdescriptiveness of the first paragraphs. Too many heavily/silently/softly and so on. There are also a handful of spelling errors, but okay, that happens.

About the story, I feel it's good prose but it's short a bit of tension. The attack comes rather out of the blue (for me; maybe it's more obvious for others?) and so this would seem a better story if we had known from before that Francis was out to 'get' William (or Holcoate/Arthur). I've heard something about 2/3rd tension buildup, 1/3rd tension release. Here we have more 2/3rd description/world building, 1/3rd tension and release. Excellent if this was the first chapter/prologue of a book, but it somewhat lessens the story on its own.

But I did get a 'feel' due to the overdescriptiveness and world building, so by no means, author 1, cut it. Just remember to trim it a bit, especially when you're short of words to build the world AND the story.

Also I am amused by British complaining about rain in May, but Dutch people complain too so it works ;)

Thanks both for putting your views out there. I'd agree with both of you in terms of adverbage (as you would have noticed from my criticism of my piece,) and I can appreciate it might have been a bit slow to read. I think what I would say - more in response to Avernite, that I wrote the 'story' as more of a prologue type piece. I think my main error was really a misjudgment of situation. I wrote a piece that would set the scene, rather than one which would blow a scene up. I think whenever I write I make the mistake of assuming the readers will go with me on being 'slow,' if you like, for the sake of build up. Here was not the place.

Also, could I ask where the spelling errors were? I couldn't find any myself. (Anyone, please feel free to answer that.)

Story 1

In “western” movies, the whole thing is a lot about the story and action, but in movies from east asia, there is room to depict moods of the people or the atmosphere of a specific location. And that is something I really like in movies and books, since it is important to me. So the initial description was perfect. Unfortunately one can`t keep these standards in such a short story. That is why at the end the plot seems to speed up, for the King and his companion are suddenly at that place with that guy and his pistol. The assassin is obviously a bit unstable in the mental department and wants to sacrifice the King to the weather God. Well, the assassination fails and the King himself disarms the assassin. End of story.

Now don`t get me wrong, but the story lacks somewhat a point. Maybe a witty gentleman-line about how this incident does make them being late for tea or something like that. Maybe it is just me, but the end felt a bit bland.

Edit: Number One
I could not make any sense of those first three paragraphs. An introduction needs to captivate the reader, inspire him to read on, and at that the introduction failed miserably: I was not captivated at all. However, when reading on, I found that the story was actually pretty good. The writing became smoother, and the plot more intriguing. Using two storylines in such a small story is daring, but for me it worked, and I was eagerly seeking connections between the two. The well-concealed bump did it for me: this was an assassin. Now, can somebody please tell me what Fate stands for?

Thanks for commenting, both of you. In response to Stuckenschimdt, I would agree that the piece is more descirptive - and I'm glad that you ended that aspect. I think that, as far as rushing the end goes, I would agree, though I would out that down to the situation. Usually, I'd take the liberty of more description, but here we have to have something that'll interest a reader, as we have seen from the comments.

Hi Gen. Thanks for your comments. I think I'd direct you both to what I've put above (in response to the first two comments.) Fate would be Phaeton.

Author #1

Ahh, I know who this is! I can guess the author! The author is… A fan of Downton Abbey! :D I really like the first scene – it really does have that feeling to it.

A small niggle I have relates to over-anthropomorphizing – in the first couple of sentences we have rain jumping and a room sitting and a clock watching. Everything in moderation – the clock is the most appropriate of these, and is quite clever. The others are too much, in my opinion.

And measure is important. I got all kinds of grief, once, when I did a size-7 “CRASH” of a door – readers were sure a bomb had just gone off, but it was just the dowager empress barging her way in. :D The stillness being “shattered” by a door “pushed open carefully” is one of those minor errors of nuance (more minor than mine, certainly, but I wished to illustrate). It creates a bit of a disconnect when you realize, “Oh, it’s just Jeeves.” Maybe the stillness rippled. Or was simply broken. Or disturbed.

It’s a brilliant and worthy scene – the first couple of paragraphs – just overdone with adjectives, etc. It’s quaint because it’s domestic and comforting. It’s perfect because it sets the tone and setting for the whole story. But measure – too much can take the focus off the mood and onto the writing, and a writer rarely wants readers to notice the words, per se. The writer wants readers to catch the mood.

Even in the 3rd paragraph, consider that you’re trying to balance pace, which is important for the readability of the story, with description. And you want to describe everything perfectly. But every parenthetical statement, every comma, every adjective, can be an obstacle to the pacing. You need some, obviously, but decide which are necessary, and which slow the story down.

But the rest of that first scene is magnificent. It’s a delicate thing to get the tension right, but I think you did a really good job. Here, the advice I gave above is reversed – you’re USING the extra sentences to extend the tension. The longer it takes the reader to get through the paragraph, the more extended the tension is – the more palpable it is. You’re just adding it on – the intentional awkwardness works for you, as an author, drawing the reader in. Nicely done!

2nd scene – now the rain is bouncing. Metaphorically, we know rain can dance. But bounce or jump? Dunno. Maybe I’m too literal. :)

The description of Francis works – sets the mood, lets us know his personality by showing, not telling. The sentences speak beyond themselves.

I love the period hints left in each of the scenes – the objects, mannerisms, etc, which tell us when this story happens. Phaetons, landaus, broadsheets…

In the 3rd scene I sense urgency, but William is too British to be bothered. A gentleman must never run, but always walk. Well done characterization, even with just a few sentences.

Next scene – rebounding rain. Much better! I like the mental picture. Visual and audible cues. Love it. What are those odd asterisks?

Hmm… Fate – Phaeton. Rain – Reign – Rein. Nice wordplay. Stiffed should be stiffened.

An interesting – and very British – reaction to having been almost assassinated. Nicely done! I really liked this piece, regardless of the few small niggles, which didn’t detract greatly, but I figured I should mention them.

Really no idea who the author might be. But great job!

You've got me! I must just confess, I do like Downton ;)

Hi Renss. I'd like to thank you for the depth of your response - there's a lot to take from here. I think I'd agree with most if it, so I shan't ramble on - perhaps rather unfairly. Does a long answer always warrant a long response? Deep ;)

The asterisks are a product of the way in which I write - copying and pasting from 'Notes' on my iPad. Sometimes, from what I can gather, the forums decide some of the spaces present are superfluous, and fills them. And thanks for noticing the word play. I quite enjoyed that part. Thanks again.

Author 1.
I guess the biggest critique of the piece I would make is one I would very readily make of my own writing, and it looks like it has been mentioned above: be careful about overusing adjectives and adverbs. Nouns and verbs are your bread and meat; adjectives and adverbs are like spices - they can really add zest to a piece when used judiciously, but overuse ruins the dish, so to speak. I do love the quintessentially English, Victorian or interwar setting - that first scene with the valet rings incredibly true to type; I love it! Although, I will say, it is a bit of a giveaway in a story set in this archetype that a man named Francis is usually up to no good, heh. Looks like it may have been inspired a bit by Edward Oxford, no? And of course, the wordplay on 'rain' and 'reign' is excellent.

A couple of minor things, one depending on when the story is set. A Tory of this time would probably not be so likely to abstain from drinking, particularly one of the High variety - the tea-totallers would have been, if anything, amongst the Methodists and the Dissenters, but that's a truly minor quibble. In terms of broader thematics and pacing, I have no problems - this reads like a vignette, and it's plain to see how much effort you put into making it immersive. And assassinations are supposed to be sudden, with the action all happening in a flash. Would have been good to get a bit more of a hint at what was eating at Francis Dudley there, however. Other than that, fine show!

Thanks Revan. Good to see you here. I shan't repeat myself, so I'll instead direct you to what I've written above. And yes, this was almost wholly inspired by Oxford. Thanks for picking up on the wordplay.

I had imagined this set around the end of the Tory party, or just after - having been replaced by the Cinservatives. I'd imagine the king to be less politically inept, and more a liberal looking to deride his ideological opponents. Either that, or he's genuinely clueless ;)

Author 1

I felt the story was too slow and became interesting near the very end. Too much descriptive text makes me lose my interest gradually. I did love how the story ended, bringing about a new familiar cycle of events.

Hi Mithfir. I shall once again direct you to what I've put above. I'm glad that you enjoyed the ending, though - thanks.

The biggest problem was structure. Each story spent an inordinate amount of space establishing the setting and characters but failed to deliver a proper climax and resolution. Taking the time for setting and character is good, if the tale is novella length or greater, but the nature of the GTA is more suited to a short story, or in some cases, flash fiction. What does this mean? It means you have limited space to grab the reader's attention and take him or her on a ride to a satisfying conclusion. In short, you should start the story with a bang and end it with a bang, or at the least, a meaningful ending. Too much time spent on setup usually results in a weak payoff, and the reader feels cheated. A friend in a writer's critique group I was involved with had a habit of saying "This is a good story, after you trash the first three pages." After grinding teeth over wasted effort, we would generally concede the man had a point. You have limited space to work with, so don't waste it.

In conclusion, jump into the tale with both feet, bring out any backstory and character development via dialogue, character mannerisms, and most importantly, showing, not telling. By the quality of the writing in these entries, I think each of you is more than capable.

Hi LD. Thanks for putting your comments down in post form. I think I'd agree with the sentiments of your critique, though would also direct you to my responses above with regards to the length and pacing.

Thanks to everyone for commenting - it means a lot. I'd also like to apologise for not having got around to commenting on BlackBishop's work, though I think I'd have just spent a lot of time saying what as already been raised ;)

Thanks everyone, this has been fun.
 

Gen. Marshall

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Hahahhaahhahahahhahahhahahahhahhahhaha

Brilliant.

Now I have to re-read the entire first and second entry - I really didn't expect that good ol' DensleyBlair and Rensslaer wrote them, and it'll be fun to re-read and look for hints :D

As for Fate-Phaeton: Damn. Should have seen that one myself.
 

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  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Commander: Conquest of the Americas
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Knight (pre-order)
  • 500k Club
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
I should have written some critique for this, but lazyness and an unusual busy social life kept me from it :/

too late for that now, just gonna say I enjoyed all three of them.

(And PS. I knew number 1. was you Densley)