Hello Again

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#1
My apologies for being away for a while, life has been quite hectic of late. I shall wholeheartedly try to give more time to the forums.

If possible could some of you offer me feedback on this short piece. It is the beginning of chapter of my WIP which has seen some major overhaul of late.

Many Thanks

Stephen



Chapter 1

The spectre of his continuing failure hung over him, driving him ever closer to an abyss of his own making. Though he persisted in his quest to fulfill his father’s dying wish, Janus felt the roots of doubt take hold of him, wrapping around him, chaining him to the poison chalice which he had willingly accepted.

In his old age, he had hoped to find the wisdom which is the promise of age, though he now knew that to be nothing more than a fallacy, perpetuated by the old to make the young embrace their mortality. He freely admitted to himself that he was indeed no closer to a great epiphany than he had been five hundred years ago.

He danced with his demons even with his waking eyes, the strain of which was beginning to show on his already aged features. The catalyst which sent him down this journey still haunted him. The loss of his world and his people was like a knife stuck in Janus’s heart. Every breath that he drew causing him fresh pain. Janus had begun to suspect that he left the knife there intentionally, that even after all this time he could not let go of the past. These black musings were the consequence of isolation, to which he had become all too familiar.

Janus wondered whether Fate conspired against him. Honestly he would not of blamed her if that the case, he had been conspiring against her for long enough. When Arraymais had recused him, Janus had asked Arraymais why he had saved him, and only him. Arraymais had simply replied that he was a mere pawn of Fate. Janus was never quite sure if Arraymais was serious or not, but he resolved from that point onwards, never to be subjugated by anyone, even Fate.

It amused him that he pissed off Fate. Samu had taught him better and he was aware that he should have been better, but no one’s perfect. Samu had taught him to be above destructive emotions such as hate but Janus could never rise above it. When he was a young boy, he had said to Samu that he did not understand what it was like to hate deeply. Samu had laughed at him. “Janus, you are not the only one to lose all that you’ve known. Remember, that Vekellis was responsible for Serenity’s destruction as well. My dear son, while you were a boy unable to even take up arms, I was a young man in my prime. Still I could do nothing. Do you think that I did not feel hate?”

Of course Samu had felt hate but he had been able to let it go. Samu had taught Janus everything that he knew, except how to let go of his hate. He peered out the oval window to his right. Millions of stars streaked past, their essence intertwining with each other forming a dripping pallet. The absence of all blue from the pallett was something which in modern times had grown into normality. Janus wondered if he was the only one who really cared about it anymore.

He remembered when Arraymais had first brought him to Serena and Samu had first adopted him. His hatred was so intense that he rejected Samu’s kindness. He even ran away. He ran so far into the fields and forests that he was sure no one would ever find him again. Then he climbed a tree and enjoyed his isolation. The night had come quickly, much sooner than he had expected. Janus remember the feeling of his hate being drowned by the sea of fear which rose up, then the night came. Samu found him and protected him. From that moment on Janus called Samu father.

Then before Janus knew it, Samu was gone. Janus was alone once again. On his deathbed, Samu had made Janus promise him too continue his mission. Janus did as his father asked. Eight hundred years later, here he was, still no closer to completing his father’s work as he was the day he started.

Part of him wanted to give up, he could admit that. Janus had his own son now, and through his hatred and loyalty, they were growing apart. That was Janus had made a decision. He was going home. He would not forfeit his mission. But, Janus knew that he had to be a father. His boy was now a young man and he need a father’s guiding hand.
So to that end Janus had resolved to make the long journey toward the North.

His progress toward that goal had been incident ridden. Janus had been attracting unwanted attention of late, and that was perhaps the one real positive. Janus could not help feeling that he was perhaps at last getting closer him. Janus smiled to himself devilishly. The very thought that may have upset The Whisper filled him with a dark pleasure. Still, his last escape had been far too close for comfort, from now on he needed to keep a low profile. A very low profile. So to that end, he had paid some drug smugglers for passage to a spaceport named Tia. The smugglers accommodation was far less than comfortable but on the upside, he severely doubted that any agent of The Whisper would look for him here.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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#2
Chapter 1

The spectre of his continuing failure hung over him, driving him ever closer to an abyss of his own making. Though he persisted in his quest to fulfill his father’s dying wish, Janus felt the roots of doubt take hold of him, wrapping around him, chaining him to the poison chalice which he had willingly accepted. As an opening paragraph, it doesn't pull me in. It seems a little maudlin, a little passive maybe. Like he's a victim, and as someone once pointed out to me it's hard to sell a victim from the beginning.

He danced with his demons even with his waking eyes, the strain of which waswere, since demon and eyes are both plural and I can't see what else this relates to beginning to show on his already aged featuresI'm sorry, I did not understand this at all.. The catalyst which sent him down this journey still haunted him.I'd really like to know what it was, instead of all the hints. The loss of his world and his people was like a knife stuck in Janus’s heart. Every breath that he drew causingcaused, unless you run this on from the last sentence him fresh pain. Janus had begun to suspect that he left the knife there intentionally, that even after all this time he could not let go of the past. These black musings were the consequence of isolation, to which he had become all too familiar.

Janus wondered whether Fate conspired against him. Honestly he would not of blamed her if that the case, he had been conspiring against her for long enough. When Arraymais had recused him, Janus had asked Arraymais why he had saved him, and only him. Arraymais had simply replied that he was a mere pawn of Fate. Janus was never quite sure if Arraymais was serious or not, but he resolved from that point onwards, never to be subjugated by anyone, even Fate. And here, I'm afraid, is where I'd put it back on the shelf. There's nothing wrong with the writing, technically it's good, but there's been nothing to convince me I want to read on about the character, and now it's an info dump, and I don't care enough about Janus to even start to want to know about someone else. I'm sorry, I hate doing crits like this, where I'm not positive... :(

It amused him that he pissed off Fate.this is better, I'd have liked to see the fire earlier. Samu had taught him better and he was aware that he should have been better, but no one’s perfect. Samu had taught him to be above destructive emotions such as hate but Janus could never rise above it. When he was a young boy, he had said to Samu that he did not understand what it was like to hate deeply. Samu had laughed at him. “Janus, you are not the only one to lose all that you’ve known. Remember, that Vekellis was responsible for Serenity’s destruction as well. My dear son, while you were a boy unable to even take up arms, I was a young man in my prime. Still I could do nothing. Do you think that I did not feel hate?”

Of course Samu had felt hate but he had been able to let it go. Samu had taught Janus everything that he knew, except how to let go of his hate. He peered out the oval window to his right. Millions of stars streaked past, their essence intertwining with each other forming a dripping pallet. The absence of all blue from the pallett was something which in modern times had grown into normality. Janus wondered if he was the only one who really cared about it anymore. No, now we're back to passive and victim, and I was just getting excited that he had more to him.

He remembered when Arraymais had first brought him to Serena and Samu had first adopted himagain, this line seems wrong. maybe something like Samu, when they'd adopted him, otherwise the two clauses don't seem to work together logically. His hatred wasor had been? was suggests it still is. so intense that he rejected Samu’s kindness. He even ran away. He ran so far into the fields and forests that he was sure no one would ever find him again. Then he climbed a tree and enjoyed his isolation. The night had come quickly, much sooner than he had expected. Janus remembered the feeling of his hate being drowned by the sea of fear which rose up, then the night came. Samu hadfound him and protected him. From that moment on Janus called Samu father. See, to me, this would have made a lovely first scene, either as a prologue or a memory. Make me care about the poor little abandoned boy and what is going to happen to him.

Then before Janus knew it, Samu was gone. Janus was alone once again. On his deathbed, Samu had made Janus promise him tooto continue his mission. Janus did as his father asked. Eight hundred years laterwasn't it five earlier?, here he was, still no closer to completing his father’s work as he was - than? the day he started. #

I'm sorry, I have to stop there, I have go nip out on a Mum's taxi run. I'm sorry I couldn't be more positive, there are some nice bits in it, like the relationship with Samu, but for me, and only me, it needed to be more active, to draw me in, to make me care. And it didn't. Sorry.
 

SciFrac

WIP me into shape!
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#3
Stephen, unfortunately I had a similar reaction. I appreciate that you're starting with story questions early and trying to pique our interest, but you lost me at the same para as Springs. You slip into back story at a point where I really want to keep moving forward, which becomes a very passive section.

Keep our attention by showing us he is worth following. True, you want to evoke emotions and show what he wants, but that's the trick. SHOW what he wants by the actions he takes in the present. I saw a lot of telling.

You can construct good sentences, and we can all use some editing, I'd just advise you focus on the present first.
 

ctg

weaver of the unseen
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#4
My apologies for being away for a while, life has been quite hectic of late. I shall wholeheartedly try to give more time to the forums.
All right man, calm down. Christmas is busy time so there's no wonder how one find time to do any writing.


Chapter 1

The spectre of his continuing everlasting failure hung over him, driving him ever closer to an abyss of his own making. Though he persisted in his quest to fulfill his father’s dying wish, Janus felt the roots of doubt take hold of him, wrapping around him, chaining him to the poison chalice which he had willingly accepted.

In his old age, he had hoped to find one of those golden promises the wisdom which is the promise of age. Ones that were no doubly anything other than though he now knew that to be nothing more than a punch of fallacy, perpetuated by the old to make the young embrace their mortality. And he freely admitted to himself, that he was indeed no closer to a great epiphany than he had been five hundred years ago.

You got a problem with a flow as from the beginning of the first chapter you should get it going and not get stuck in a tar pit of description. I have tried to correct it heavily in the second para, but I'm afraid it only gives you an guideline of how you should approach the prose to get it going.

By the way, you got the hook in there.
He danced with his demons even with his waking eyes, the strain of which was beginning to show on his already aged features.

This is where the prose picks up again and as a reader I would had expected to be able to pick to plot from commenting, but instead of that I'm a bit lost. What demons?

Don't go overly poetic. You want to keep the readers hooked. So rewrite the beginning of the third para and try to hook it with second. And stop talking about his advanced age, we know he's old. Really old. Or if you're embrace it fully and just write about it.

The catalyst which sent him down this journey still haunted him. The loss of his world and his people was like a knife stuck in Janus’s heart. Every breath that he drew causing him fresh pain. Janus had begun to suspect that he left the knife there intentionally, that even after all this time he could not let go of the past. These black musings were the consequence of isolation, to which he had become all too familiar.

This is mostly poorly written exposition and it need to be written properly. So stick to the character and forget the bloody narrator, please.

Janus wondered whether Fate conspired against him. Honestly he would not of blamed her if that was the case, he had been conspiring against her for long enough. When Arraymais had recused him, he'd asked [add title] why he was the chosen one. And the reply was nothing what he'd expected -- that he was a mere pawn of Fate. Janus was never quite sure if Arraymais was serious or not, but he resolved from that point onwards, never to be subjugated by anyone, even Fate.

Instead of going into the narrator practice at the end I would like to see you doing internal thoughts, or writing in current feelings and associating them to the memories of what had happened then. Give the reader a reason to keep reading the story.
It amused him that he pissed off Fate. Samu had taught him better and he was aware that he should have been better, but no one’s perfect. Samu had taught him to be above destructive emotions such as hate but Janus could never rise above it. When he was a young boy, he had said to Samu that he did not understand what it was like to hate deeply. Samu had laughed at him. “Janus, you are not the only one to lose all that you’ve known. Remember, that Vekellis was responsible for Serenity’s destruction as well. My dear son, while you were a boy unable to even take up arms, I was a young man in my prime. Still I could do nothing. Do you think that I did not feel hate?”

Even if you are going use a flashback to advance the story, it doesn't mean you should forget completely what the drama is. Play it out, expand the dialogue and make it meaningful, cos at the moment it's a bit more than clunky.

Of course Samu had felt hate but he had been able to let it go. Samu had taught Janus everything that he knew [repetition], except how to let go of his hate. He peered out the oval window to his right.
[added a para break]
Millions of stars streaked past, their essence intertwining with each other forming a dripping pallet. The absence of all blue from the pallett was something which in modern times had grown into normality. Janus wondered if he was the only one who really cared about it anymore.

Two things. First you go on about the his thoughts, which I think you could cut out, and just go back to painting the scene. In fact, this is the first time, when the reader learns anything about his environment, that he's in a spaceship. Not good.

Not good at all. Maybe you could go back into the beginning and paint the picture of him turning his gaze towards the stars, and as he sees his reflection against the black background, he realises how far and how little he's done.

He remembered when Arraymais had first brought him to Serena and Samu had first adopted him. His hatred was so intense that he rejected Samu’s kindness. He even ran away. He ran so far into the fields and forests that he was sure no one would ever find him again. Then he climbed a tree and enjoyed his isolation. The night had come quickly, much sooner than he had expected. Janus remember the feeling of his hate being drowned by the sea of fear which rose up, then the night came. Samu found him and protected him. From that moment on Janus called Samu father.

Then before Janus knew it, Samu was gone. Janus was alone once again. On his deathbed, Samu had made Janus promise him too continue his mission. Janus did as his father asked. Eight hundred years later, here he was, still no closer to completing his father’s work as he was the day he started.

Part of him wanted to give up, he could admit that. Janus had his own son now, and through his hatred and loyalty, they were growing apart. That was Janus had made a decision. He was going home. He would not forfeit his mission. But, Janus knew that he had to be a father. His boy was now a young man and he need a father’s guiding hand.
So to that end Janus had resolved to make the long journey toward the North.

Most of that at above is background info that I'm not interested. It doesn't strike me important, but now, at the end, you're talking about the boy and the fact he's going to North. North where? Is he in a spaceship?

I'm lost.
 

Bowler1

Senile Member
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#5
I have to be honest, SS, I’ve no idea what plot your trying to present to me. There is nothing that would encourage me to read on, and I’m left feeling very confused. The annoying thing is that you seemed to have very good technical ability. You need to keep the reader in mind and develop and explain your concepts, such as the characters mission. You explained why the mission was important but not what the mission was, or if you have, I missed it. Without this, why should I read on?
 

Brian G Turner

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#6
The problem I have is that the piece opens promising conflict - but doesn't actually tell us what the conflict is - instead providing a whole ream of descriptions that the man is in conflict. We get it! Now tell us what the conflict is and give us a context!

You mention about mission, and purpose, but never tell us anything about these - even though they are the source of the conflict. The reader should not have to ask what the conflict is - you should tell them, so the reader is left sympathising with the character and wanting them to resolve it.

IMO you should avoid generic descriptions such as a "sea of fear" unless you qualify such statements by explaining what the fear is of - otherwise all you're describing is a general anxiety that, without explanation, is meaingless.

I'm sorry not to be more positive, but this reads as an exercise in writing a neurosis - you show ability - so just focus on using that to explain what is happening to a reader, and stop worrying about stuffing in the adjectives! :)
 

Tecdavid

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#7
Janus wondered whether Fate conspired against him. Honestly, he would not have blamed her if that was the case, he had been conspiring against her for long enough. When Arraymais had recused (rescued?) him, Janus had asked Arraymais why he had saved him, and only him. Arraymais had simply replied that he was a mere pawn of Fate. Janus was never quite sure if Arraymais was serious or not, but he resolved from that point onwards, never to be subjugated by anyone, even Fate.

It amused him that he pissed off Fate. Nothing wrong with a cuss here and there, but it seems a little out of place, from what little I’ve read so far. This narrative associated with Janus reads quite fluently and cleverly (whether you intend to keep that consistent, I don’t yet know), so “pissed off” seems a bit crass, all of a sudden. Samu had taught him better and he was aware that he should (I’d suggest putting ‘should’ in italics, here.) have been better, but no one’s perfect. Samu had taught him to be above destructive emotions such as hate but Janus could never rise above it. When he was a young boy, he had said to Samu that he did not understand what it was like to hate deeply. Samu had laughed at him. “Janus, you are not the only one to lose all that you’ve known. Remember, that Vekellis was responsible for Serenity’s destruction as well. My dear son, while you were a boy unable to even take up arms, I was a young man in my prime. Still I could do nothing. Do you think that I did not feel hate?”

Of course Samu had felt hate but he had been able to let it go. Samu had taught Janus everything that he knew, except how to let go of his hate. He peered out the oval window to his right. Millions of stars streaked past, their essence intertwining with each other forming a dripping pallet. The absence of all blue from the pallett (pallet) was something which in modern times had grown into normality. Janus wondered if he was the only one who really cared about it anymore.

He remembered when Arraymais had first brought him to Serena and Samu had first adopted him. His hatred was so intense that he rejected Samu’s kindness. He even ran away. He ran so far into the fields and forests that he was sure no one would ever find him again. Then he climbed a tree and enjoyed his isolation. The night had come quickly, much sooner than he had expected. Janus remembered the feeling of his hate being drowned by the sea of fear which rose up, then the night came. Samu found him and protected him. From that moment on Janus called Samu father. It’s all written rather gracefully, I think, but it’s also rather distant. I don’t feel I’m really engaging with Janus so much as I’m simply learning about his background. I’ve often heard it said that it’s better to season details such as these throughout the story in bits and pieces, ideally within dialogue between characters. I think it’s especially true if this is the beginning of your story, during which the reader will be looking to really make an initial connection with the characters and setting.

Then before Janus knew it, Samu was gone. Janus was alone once again. On his deathbed, Samu had made Janus promise him too (to) continue his mission. Janus did as his father asked. Eight hundred years later, here he was, still no closer to completing his father’s work as he was the day he started.

Part of him wanted to give up, he could admit that. Janus had his own son now, and through his hatred and loyalty, they were growing apart. That was when(?) Janus had made a decision. He was going home. He would not forfeit his mission. But, Janus knew that he had to be a father. His boy was now a young man and he need a father’s guiding hand.
So to that end Janus had resolved to make the long journey toward the North.

His progress toward that goal had been incident ridden. Janus had been attracting unwanted attention of late, and that was perhaps the one real positive. Janus could not help feeling that he was perhaps at last getting closer to him. Janus smiled to himself devilishly. The very thought that may have upset The Whisper filled him with a dark pleasure. Still, his last escape had been far too close for comfort, from now on he needed to keep a low profile. A very low profile. So to that end, he had paid some drug smugglers for passage to a spaceport named Tia. The smugglers accommodation was far less than comfortable but on the upside, he severely doubted that any agent of The Whisper would look for him here.
There are quite a few typos strewn about this, which I’ve marked out for you. It is very difficult to catch them all, I think we can all agree, so keep an eye out while proof-reading. ;) As for the excerpt, I do think there was a dignity and grace to the narrative, but maybe at the cost of actual immersion. You tell us about Janus’ woe, then his mentoring on hatred, then his mission for his father, and then his son and then the enigmatic Whisper, but we don’t really learn (from this passage, at least), why he’s thinking about them now, or what they each mean. We’re also hearing about them all in a past tense, and since we’ve only just met this character and haven’t seen his involvement with hatred, the emotional importance of his mission, or the Whisper, it’s hard to really feel much connection to him, or feel much sympathy for him. How about writing a few prologue scenes, perhaps, in which we briefly experience everything mentioned here as they happen?
 

JoanDrake

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#9
Not to pile on, but I have to agree with most of what's been said already and add one more thing. You need to stop repeating words. You use Fate 4x and follow it with hate being used 5 all in about 3 paras. Also, the way you use Fate is unclear as to whether it is fortune, or an actual being. I don't think fate is capitalised if you mean providence as it is not a proper noun but I am not a grammarian.

I tend to do this myself on first drafts. I find that sometimes, especially if I have to rephrase the entire sentence to avoid the reptition instead of just using a synonym, it can make the whole thing clearer, but that's just me.

The beginning was interesting, especially the part about him being 500 years old and about to drink poison. I'd read on just out of curiousity and piece it together as it went, but I'd sure hope it got clearer as the story developed or I'd give up pretty soon.
 
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#10
Not to pile on, but I have to agree with most of what's been said already and add one more thing. You need to stop repeating words. You use Fate 4x and follow it with hate being used 5 all in about 3 paras. Also, the way you use Fate is unclear as to whether it is fortune, or an actual being. I don't think fate is capitalised if you mean providence as it is not a proper noun but I am not a grammarian.

I tend to do this myself on first drafts. I find that sometimes, especially if I have to rephrase the entire sentence to avoid the reptition instead of just using a synonym, it can make the whole thing clearer, but that's just me.

The beginning was interesting, especially the part about him being 500 years old and about to drink poison. I'd read on just out of curiousity and piece it together as it went, but I'd sure hope it got clearer as the story developed or I'd give up pretty soon.
basically I've just reworked the chapter order a little, I'll post the revision up in a few days, let me know what you think Joan.
 

Bonnie Milani

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#11
Hello, Hello Again!

Having read through the previous comments, I'm feeling downright guilty at adding my two cents worth to the general run of commentary. Enough said that I think you've heard the issues with the piece quite thoroughly by now, so I'll try to offer some techniques that might help you work through the problems everyone has raised.
Try asking yourself WHO Janus is - not in general, but very specifically.
WHAT does he want - again, you must find a specific answer you can describe in concrete detail.
WHY does he want it? See above..
WHO is trying to stop him from getting it? See above...
WHY is s/he trying to stop him?
WHAT are the stakes involved? Will the universe end if Janus fails? Why should we readers care?
HOW does his quest / desire line / what-have-you force Janus to change? What does he DO that illustrates that change (so we readers can see it for ourselves)
What single event forces him into it?
Hope that helps! Also hope that THIS critique actually makes it to the site; one I did last night went off into never-never land...
Best
Bonnie Milani
 

Scott R. Forshaw

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#12
Stephen, sorry but I'm with Springs on this one. She's pretty much summed up everything I'd want to say. The story, although reasonably well written, lacks bite. It doesn't draw me in, but instead leaves me wondering, for the most part, what's going on. That might be because I became disengaged from the story within a few lines, though, and found it quite difficult to read on whilst my concentration wavered.

I feel that your problem might be the fact that you're trying too hard to improve your sentence structure, punctuation and such, and as a result, sadly, the plot has been left to suffer. I can see that some of your previous problems with commas have been eradicated, so you're doing something right, but it's been done to the detriment of the story, unfortunately. I'm sure you'll find the right balance, though. Just keep plugging away, and you'll see massive improvements to your writing. It's an enormous learning curve, but it's worth losing a little sleep, and more than a little hair over.
 
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