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Critiques: The Ontologia

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by No One, Sep 30, 2011.

    No One

    No One Orange Aide ;)

    Dec 17, 2009
    Okay, so, I lied. I’ve decided to stick to the rules after all and post on 1000. I guarantee it won’t have been worth the wait, but I’m hoping that my good behaviour will count for something. :D

    This is something I started a few years back. In an attempt to build the rudiments of a fantasy setting, I found myself wanting to start from scratch. And I mean scratch. I’ve been a fan of mythologies for ages and the idea of writing my own story of creation was just too appealing. So this became a project of its own and I drafted a very rough 50,000 words which I’ve been re-developing and re-thinking to infinity.

    Anyway, it starts basic. In fact, in the 1100 or so words here there isn’t even a universe yet (or rather, universes – or rather, World Tree). My idea is that the writing style would change as the environment and cast grows (which it does rapidly after a point) so that’s something at the forefront of my thoughts with these initial phases.

    The premise is of a series of chronicles, related nightly in the distant past by one of the current generations of gods to the mortal races. I guess that would put this in the oral tradition of writing, but I won’t pretend to know the intricate differences. I still haven’t decided whether it would be best presented in a more academic format including foot-notes and end-notes (I’ve had to develope a rudimentary calendar and broad historical outlines just for that purpose), but I’ve just decided to leave that stuff out here, barring a couple of snippets of information which wouldn’t ordinarily be part of the main text.

    And without further ado and dithering...gods help me :)

    Note: Big copy and paste going on here - so apologies if the format isn't ideal (although, now that I look at it, I think some spacing is required...)

    * * * * *

    The Ontologia

    The 1st Chronicle: The Sæd​

    Before all things, there was the infinite Sæd (or Ontos).

    Whether the Sæd existed in this way for an instant or an eternity, no one can tell, for there was no Time until it give will to the first Thought and with it took the first Form.

    It shall not be said that the Sæd became finite, nor uttered here the final consequences of that first and greatest reformation, yet as a limitless light into a fixed and brilliant star did the Sæd amend itself, shedding all else to become infinite Oblivion.

    So it would remain, still and silent and alone, through time enough to wither twenty-seven generations of the oldest stars today.

    Then the Sæd gave sound to the first Word, and the word was Yes.

    The 2nd Chronicle: Mikrosa and Makrosa​

    All things are second to the first of the Sæd and second came the first animus, flaring bright into the first element. So was born the Empyrean Mikrosa.

    In her first moments Mikrosa knew blissful happiness, mesmerized by the beauty of the Sæd. She may have remained forever content, but that she reached out on a sudden whim for the wondrous thing before her. Only then did she see how she was not one with the heavenly body, discovering her own form and apprehending her own will.

    The Empyrean exulted in what fires she could summon forth and as she spun in joy her flames danced into Oblivion. Yet her joy was quickly crushed, when she stood with the Sæd behind her to see what endless emptiness awaited her judgement.

    For all living things, Oblivion is a sight beyond bearing. As Mikrosa looked into that deep she was made meek, lost, and helpless, and as she grew afraid her fires dimmed and cooled. She may have despaired, her flames forever extinguished, had she not been guarded by the ignorance of infancy. Instead, she roared her defiance into Oblivion and defiant she turned to face the Sæd, where her terror was lifted to rapture and the abyss at her back was driven far from her thoughts. So she stood, calm and recovered, but never saw what happened nearby.

    There in the void, where her hottest flames had cooled, was formed a whisp of frost. Within it crystallized a second element, of ice, drifting ever closer to the Sæd to be imbued with animus. So was born the Gelurean Makrosa.

    In his first moments Makrosa wept in light and silence, struggling to be free from the overpowering heat nearby. When he stopped his weeping and first learned to see, he had drifted into the void and stared out into Oblivion. It was not so terrible for him, who had yet to see the Sæd, but for a time he could not know that he lived at all. He may have remained forever insensible, but that his infant restlessness turned him as he drifted, until he saw that distant source of all creation. Immediately, he reached out to it and discovered his own form and apprehended his own will.

    With slow wonder, the Gelurean approached. He felt the heat of Mikrosa’s flames, yet did not see her for the brightness of the Sæd. He would have wept again, but that he cloaked himself in a thick white frost, moving closer still, willing to bear the troublesome heat to see such splendor. Mikrosa felt a subtle chill and her flames shivered, disturbing her from her place.

    It was then that the Sæd-born (or Ontos-geneia) first saw each other – Mikrosa vast and menacing, Makrosa small and feeble. The Empyrean approached, unafraid, while the other had stopped, wary of the great fires. The growing heat stripped away Makrosa’s cloak of frost and he began to weep again. He panicked then, throwing out his hands to ward away the fires, and in that instant the Sæd-born touched. They each recoiled in terrible agony, neither seing that where they touched remained a faint, argent mist.

    Mikrosa roared with anger, flaring bright, so fierce that Makrosa took flight. When she was alone again, the Empyrean became captivated, her pain soothed by the Sæd.

    As he retreated Makrosa needed face Oblivion again and now, having seen the Sæd, it horrified him all the more. In an instant he forgot his pain and his fear of the flames and ceased his weeping. Turning back to the Sæd, his determination grew, and he resumed his cloak of frost, thicker and colder than before. When he soon returned Mikrosa was again unsettled and approached him in fury. Her fires were yet too fearsome and Makrosa withdrew, his cloak in tatters, weeping once more.

    When next Makrosa looked into Oblivion, he determined that he should never see it again. Colder still he grew and greater still his cloak as he turned and approached the Sæd. In her growing anger, the Empyrean advanced to show what great power she possessed and though he wept as she roared again, Makrosa did not flee, his cloak now so thick that it doused the fire about him. Instead, he beat his chest with glacial fists.
    And so began the first great cataclysm.

    The 3rd Chronicle: The Horos​

    For eons the contest of Mikrosa and Makrosa raged beside the impervious Sæd. In perpetual agony for so long as they fought, their great pains spurred them in their frenzied clash and as they fought they aged from infancy to youth.

    The Ontos-geneia were blind to each other, Mikrosa burning bright as the Sæd, Makrosa hidden within his dense, deep frost. For all her size, ten times as great as they began and nine as they ended, Mikrosa could not extinguish or diminish the lesser element.

    Makrosa still often wept in this time and a stream of melted ice flowed out into the void where it froze once more. Nor was that river of shards their only creation, or the most lasting.

    It happened then that the Ontos-geneia grew weary of their mutual suffering and brought a stop to their dispute. Yet, as Mikrosa’s fires dimmed and Makrosa’s frost dispersed, they looked about them and despaired. With each collision of ice and fire there was created more of that silver mist, of which now there was an immense body, thereafter to be called the Horos. The mist had grown thicker and broader with each of many eons and was now too heavy to see very far and in breadth was vast beyond imagining.
    Within it, the Ontos-geneia had lost sight of the Sæd.

    Careful to avoid each other, they began to search the Horos. In this way, over the long passage of celestial time, did Mikrosa grow smaller, expending her flames that shunned the mist, while Makrosa froze and ever amassed with the new element.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Poshville, West Sussex
    First, well done for reaching 1000 posts and for not letting ancient and noble traditions sink into the mire of modern indifference.

    Having said that, you haven't made things easy for us. This is quite difficult to critique. It's so dense that I think in its current form it would defeat most readers who encountered it (unless they already had a strong desire to know what it reveals), but I'm not sure if you intend it to be presented in this form, and if so, whereabouts in a book or story. It could be made slightly more accessible by wording it in a less archaic style ("thus did he" etc). I would recommend this.

    There's one thing in particular I thought needed rewording to avoid confusion:

    This strongly suggests that the Saed shed all else and therefore became infinite Oblivion, but I think you mean the shed stuff became Oblivion.

    As for the ideas and images, I found them interesting, though being interested in mythologies myself I found them hard to place. The story seems too far removed from ordinary human experience to have been descended from early human myths, and indeed, you tell us these stories were given by a god (of the 'current generation'). But stories are best remembered when the listener can relate to them, and I wonder why the god didn't make these ones less remote for human listeners. The Saed etc feels very abstract. Do the gods themselves believe these stories? Is it actually the truth of your universe?

    Apart from the point about making it more accessible, it's hard to be able to say more without knowing more of the metaphysics and religious background. The piece reminds me more of William Blake than any genuine Earth mythology. This is no bad thing, and might indeed be what you want (though I have to say I find Blake's mythological stuff difficult too, however much I feel compelled to keep trying him).
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    nearly the New Forest
    Congratulations on the 1,000!!

    I love the voice of this, and I definitely think you should go the story-teller route rather than a dry and dusty academic approach as in a text book. However, I'm not sure how you're planning to bring it into the book itself. If it's as snippets inserted every now and then between normal prose I think it would be wonderful, but it's so rich that en masse, especially at the very beginning, it might seem a little too much -- and even then I might be tempted to split the second Chronicle in two, ending just before the birth of Mikrosa, as it is so dense and poetic.

    A few nitpicky things. A few places where words are missing or where I'd have punctuated differently (can't find them now...) -- ah, here's one with both
    and once or twice I think you've chosen a wrong word eg
    Becoming captivated isn't quite right -- surely she was captivated before?

    Sometimes my reading of the rhythm would have led me to a slightly different sentence construction eg
    The end of the line is a bit dulling after the lightness of the beginning, so I'd have gone for something like
    More importantly, sometimes you've striven just a bit too much to be poetic and it's fallen into portentiousness for my taste, and I've struggled to understand it -- though this may well be my fault not yours eg it took me a couple of readings to get
    I think this might be helped by
    means (a) that she stood like that in order to see the emptiness and (b) that she is going to pass judgement on the emptiness, neither of which I think you intend.

    One last thing, it didn't worry me they had hands, but for some reason
    took me out of the story. It's bordering on the bathetic, anyhow, so is it needed? It's not as if the beating of his chest results in anything in itself, so I'd drop it.

    These are all relatively minor points, though. I thought it was well written, and inserted in little dollops alongside ordinary prose would add real richness and depth to the work.

    PS I see HareBrain has sneaked in before me so part of this is repetition!
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011

    Boneman Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2008
    Working with the Bare Bones of talent
    Hi No One, and may I add my congratulations on reaching 1,000 posts. HB and the Judge have virtually touched on everything I'd mention (making it a lot easier for me, thanks guys!), so I'll only add a couple of things. Shouldn't the first word be 'om'? Oh no, different creation mythology... I did enjoy reading it, but as a 'speedy reader' got confused between Makrosa and Mikrosa, as I was scanning so fast - maybe the male should be Mikrosi, as a double emphasis.

    And just one tense jarred a little, as you're already using the past tense in this sentence, shouldn't the highlighted bit be past tense as well? 2nd para:

    ...for there was no Time till it give will to the first Thought...

    But well-thought out, and I'd have liked a longer ending.:eek:
    No One

    No One Orange Aide ;)

    Dec 17, 2009
    Bit of a bumper, and jumbled, response is in order then. I won't cover everything here, but will focus on the non-grammatical points.

    HB - you've brought up some interesting points. Firstly, as I say, this has become a project of it's own - I've no real thoughts that it would be suitable for publishing as a standalone piece, but I do intend for it to be it's own book (assuming I ever finish the ruddy thing). And you're likely right about the occasional archaism, it's something I have a lot of trouble keeping out of my general writing. Contrary to the more contemporary stuff I've been reading in more recent years, the bulk of my previous reading has almost always been the classics and I just can't seem to shake it out. One of the reasons I enjoy the writing challenges here is to practise just that - shaking the habit.

    I admit, I've found it difficult to find that balance between keeping the text clear and straightforward, while maintaining a sense of lyricism (which I don't intend to keep up as things grow more complex) and not overly explaining everything. I've never read a mythology that doesn't have a lot of holes but at the same time I'm trying to let certain principles dictate certain events (for instance, Mikrosa and Makrosa, in my own crude way, represents the law of thermodynamics with heat forever being lost and cold forever growing).

    And you're right about that line - I could be clearer on that point. When it comes to the Saed though, I'm very much willing to leave a lot of questions, keeping it in the metaphysical background. One of my goals was to absolutely avoid anthropomorphising the Saed, instead leaving that for the elements it creates. The Saed becomes the basis and part of the structure of the World Tree after a few more chronicles, so hopefully it's role and nature becomes a little clearer with time. I appreciate that it must be difficult - if not impossible - to grasp at the outset. I know that wouldn't appeal to some readers, but I'm willing to take that risk :D

    In answer to one of your other questions, yes this is the truth of the cosmos and while I've never come up with a reason as to how the latter generations of gods know these things it's something I plan to do. Mainly, I wanted to create a contrast to our own belief systems by using them in a fantasy setting. In other words, while we in the real world have many different ideas and interpretations of cosmology, in this fantasy world there is only one predominant truth (which is not to say that there aren't cultures who don't know of or reject the ontologia for their own myths, or simply focus on a few select parts of it, or have re-interpreted the chronicles to such an extent that they bear little likeness to the original, which in some sense would also be true of this version).

    TJ - this is why I’ve always been back on forth on the storyteller vs academic approach. As I intend this to constitute it’s own book, I thought it might need that academic touch to pin it down and divide attention somewhat from the “richness” (as you so kindly say :)) of the main prose. I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on that, because it’s one of the fundamentals that keeps me going back.

    I’ve had a once-through over your insights on sentence structure and context and need to organise a proper response for that, so I’ll leave it for another time. Suffice to say, your input is really appreciated because those are the little things that also keep me eternally editing. Getting your opinion on that will be a huge help to me I’m sure (you may have noticed that I hold your own powers of wordplay in high regard, hence all those votes! :D).

    I also think you’re right about splitting that second chronicle into two parts. That also happens to work quite nicely with the principle behind the cycle of life (for the record, the fibonnachi sequence dictates said cycle, so the Saed represents 0, Mikrosa = 1, Makrosa = 1, then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc). You get the idea then, how rapidly the cast grows.

    Boneman – thanks! And d’oh – yes, that should be gave, not give. I actually re-wrote that first chronicle to allude to some of the information that was otherwise presented in end-notes. Pretty much a last-minute alteration, hence the mistake. Cheers for the spot.

    I’m not a speedy reader myself, and I guess there could be some confusion over Mikrosa and Makrosa (that was one of the reasons for the need of pronouns such as Empyrean and Gelurean), but I think for now I’ll keep it as is unless anyone else thinks this could be a difficulty.

    Seeing as all this is already proving very helpful I’m tempted to put up the next few parts, just so you can get a slightly better picture of things. Your encouragement is very much appreciated. :)

    So until I can gather my thoughts some more and post again, another big thanks to all of you! This sort of feedback is exactly what I need.
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    nearly the New Forest
    Hmmm. That does worry me a little, then. If this is your Silmarillion to be published only after you've become very famous and everyone is desperate to see how your world all began, then I'm sure it would fly off the shelves. However, as a first or second novel, it's a lot more problematic. It is so dense, it would be very off-putting, like trying to eat a huge bowl of thick cream on its own at one sitting.

    When I first read about the academic bit, I assumed you were planning to write all of it in that tone, which I think would be a waste. I'm guessing now that what you mean is to alternate: a poetic piece, then an academic discussion/explanation paragraph, then poetic, then explanation. Although that would alleviate the richness, if that's what you're planning, I don't think it's the answer in itself. It would simply be alternating cream with sawdust. What you need is a proper meal of a plot and characters in which readers can be interested immediately.

    Is there a reason for this to be its own separate book and not interleaved into the story? I don't think you need to find someone to tell it -- you could simply have bits popping up every now and then (a bit like I'm proposing to do with my first person monologues). Alternately, I wonder if this is something for the website and not a book?

    Happy to help as I love the word-polishing bit of writing! Don't forget, though, that how I hear it in my mind might not be how you hear it or what you want to achieve, viz what I think is a little bit of a dull ending, you might want to have that effect and/or you like for another reason. Ultimately, it's your poetry. And wonderful poetry it is, too! (And I'm not just saying that so there's no more mutinies in the Challenges! :p)

    TheEndIsNigh ...Prepare Thyself

    Mar 16, 2008
    No One:

    The main problem I had with this - notwithstanding the wall of text - is that I found your universe was flawed. (In fairness most are) Yours, seemed to be relying on confusing the reader, rather than laying out a plausible creation myth.

    If you are interested, I could do a "blow by blow", but it will not be pretty.:)
    No One

    No One Orange Aide ;)

    Dec 17, 2009
    TJ – yup, this is why I say it’s not something that I’d consider sending to a publisher. As it stands, it’s more of an epic exercise. Plus, it’s fun and deeply satisfying – drafting the 50,000 words on this stuff was the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

    The online idea is definitely intriguing though. I’d happily trade the rich and famous bit for an audience of distinguished chronners :D

    And as for the academic approach, there was a time when I thought to incorporate discussion/explanations into the main body of text, as you say, but I eventually decided that I’d rather present the mythology in a purer form. The additional information would be presented entirely in end-notes of varying length, which I thought was the best way to compromise.

    I’ve yet to properly go through your suggested alterations, but will get on that soon. I’m sure I’ll see an improvement.

    TEIN – when you say ‘universe’ I can’t be sure if you’re referring to the general features of the setting or an actual universe in the physical sense, but I’ll stress again that at this point there isn’t one, only a few of the underlying conditions in which one will be introduced.

    The beginning was always going to be the most incomprehensible part and only as things progress will the scale of things fall into place (don’t get me wrong, it would probably still be a demanding feat of visualisation, but what the hell, I don’t believe in pampering readers :D). Even so, confusing the reader was never my intention - in fact I've done all I can to try and keep things relatively simple. It’s just difficult when you’re dealing with metaphysical ideas (for instance, I could have suggested that the Saed and Oblivion are not quite the dichotomy they appear to be and that perception is all that really separates them, but I figured that would be confusing).

    As for the blow by blow, maybe you could forego the jabs and just throw in the haymakers? :) I might have reasons for going the route I’ve taken, or I might be able to incorporate certain changes to the text for its benefit. I’m curious to know what these flaws you’re seeing are.

    TheEndIsNigh ...Prepare Thyself

    Mar 16, 2008

    The real trouble is that, as a reader, if this is the start of a book, I've put it back on the shelf and moved on. It doesn't do anything to grab me and force me to read any more. You've lost the one and only chance of arousing my interest.

    Even the kindest amongst us would agree it takes a few readings to get to grip with it. If that's the 'voice' of the book then it's hard to listen to.

    Hope I helped

    No One

    No One Orange Aide ;)

    Dec 17, 2009
    ARGGHHH! After getting my internet connection sorted it's giving me grief today - and I've just managed to lose my entire post!! Most. Annoying.

    Sigh. One more try then...

    In answer to your points TEIN:

    This is confusing? You should see the end-notes that are attached to the first line in the other version! Ontos is the simply the human translation of Saed used by holy men. Remember, this is a story passed on by a deity – it’s not transpiring in real-time. Also, as I said before, the bracketed information wouldn’t ordinarily be part of the text. I’ve only included it there to allude to the title of the piece and to link to the alternate pronoun of ontos-geneia later in the text. In any case, I (and I would imagine any author) can’t cater to readers who are deterred by absorbing, say, three pieces of information in one line as opposed to two.

    There is no “I” in Saed :D. But seriously, I wouldn’t exactly presume to know how the Saed “thinks”. For me, the two are very much simultaneous. At this point, there is no distinguishing between thought and form.

    Agreed on the first part. As TJ pointed out, there’s a redundancy in words here. That ought to be easily fixed. Not sure what you mean when you say no more can happen, but between the Saed and Mikrosa and Makrosa, I’ve got all I need to create everything that follows. Oblivion is just the Saed’s way of ‘making room’.

    I take your point, but the term is intended as an equivalancy, as opposed to saying the Saed sat there for something like 300 billion years. It’s been a while since I brushed up on my astrophysics, but I’m pretty sure stars do have generations via the intermediary state of nebulae. Not sure it that applies to all stars though.

    Both. The creation of Mikrosa is one of the deeper mysteries of the mythos. No one can presume to know exactly how that was accomplished, turning an animus (also Saed Secundus, aka the equivalent of a soul) into an element. In that regard, Mikrosa’s birth is unique from all the others that follow. And the Saed can’t be considered an element in any conventional sense.

    The Saed has a ‘finite’ form at this point, distinguishable from Oblivion. It’s just rather blasphemous and misleading to point it out :p Agreed again though that the word ‘body’ is somewhat misleading.

    TJ also pointed this out, and clearly the use of the word judgement seems a bad choice – it’s intent is only to point at how Mikrosa herself will react. And yes, there is nothing to see. I know this is a concept that can’t translate to any kind of natural thought – and it’s not meant to. The vast majority of lesser gods/titans etc, of later generations will never see Oblivion and if they did they’d be driven just as mad as if they saw the Saed.

    Ayup, I’m aware of the repetition of the word.

    “…and defiant she turned to face the Saed and her terror was lifted to rapture and the abyss at her back was driven far from her thoughts.” Surely too many ‘ands’?

    Certain leaps of faith are needed in any mythology. There are far more unanswered and far from logical questions everywhere in every mythology I’ve ever read.

    I don’t see why it should be water in the first instance though.

    Again I don’t see why that first part should be an issue.

    I know what you’re driving at with everything being in the void/not void. It doesn’t make perfect sense. Don’t you think it would be somewhat more confusing if the god dictating the chronicles went off on a philosophical tangeant explaining otherwise?

    Approached one of the two other things in the entirety of existence. Surely no reader needs to be told that?


    That’s pretty much the idea.

    Perpetual ‘for so long as they fought’. Although it is a little cumbersome – I may change that.

    Thanks for the rigorous inspection TEIN. I’m assuming though that readers like yourself would put down many a book if there are unanswered questions in the first two pages or require some afterthought to be made more sense of (it seems to me that most books require at least that much). Of course, no story is for everyone.

    Cheers :)
    No One

    No One Orange Aide ;)

    Dec 17, 2009
    Just a couple of points then on TJ’s comments. There’s no need to go through them one by one because I agree with the majority.

    I see now why TEIN pointed out the word “captivated” – I should be more specific in that instance to show that it’s a matter of being recaptured after having turned away from the Saed.

    I guess the thing about Makrosa beating his chest was just a way of showing that we’re dealing with very primal forces – the only ones, in fact, that don’t have a voice of all the others that follow. But I guess that’s self-evident, so maybe, as you say, that’s just not necessary. I may keep it though, as the anthropomorphic aspect of these beings becomes more pronounced as things progress.

    A big thanks again to everyone.
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

    Apr 10, 2007

    This is your problem, I feel. You cannot afford to allow the beginning of your book to be incomprehensible. If anything, those opening chapters have to be the best in the book.

    Your piece is well written and you clearly have few difficulties when it comes to self expression. Good stuff - that immediately puts you several steps ahead of most other aspiring writers. But, to me, it reads like an unappetising cross between The Silmarillion and William Blake on one of his more esoteric days. Put simply - there's no story. Nothing to grab the reader.

    Tolkien knew this. That's why he started off with workshy hobbits stuffing their faces and left the hardline stuff like The Silmarillion for later.

    If the plot requires you to cover the metaphysical, I'd leave it until after chapter 3. Get the story moving and then bring in the background once your readers are well and truly on board and have merrily suspended their disbelief. Give them bread and circuses before you make them do some work.



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