5000 posts -- madness! (950 + 150 words)

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HareBrain

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Many thanks in advance to anyone who tackles this.

Below are two excerpts with a common theme. They might be a bit tricky to crit, since they come from halfway through the second book in my series. So, some background: in a world roughly equivalent to our 1900, Orc and Cass (not their real names) were found washed up on a beach two years ago, without any memories. Recently, Orc’s sense of self and identity has been eroded further by his repeatedly being confirmed, unwillingly, in the magical role of Sun King: sacrifice, husband and son of the ancient vegetative goddess of life and death, the Mother. It’s what this does to his perception of himself and wider reality that I want to try to get right in these two excerpts.

In this first one, he and Cass (and three others) are being quizzed about events in the first book (a magician physically manifested a death-goddess) by Prelate Astrasis, a theocrat of Kurassia, an imperial, patriarchal culture vehemently opposed to the Witch (their version of the great goddess, and which they see as a very real threat).

Orc’s identity issues have been made worse by the fact that he and Cass have had to construct a fake past to replace their missing one.

I’m interested in whether his “madness”, both descent and recovery, comes across credibly. Plus any other comments of course.


****************************************


‘Could he be raising more of these abominations?’ said the Prelate. ‘What is Sundara’s plan? Why a goddess? Have they made some alliance with the dark power of Golgomera, with the Witch? Are the End Days truly upon us?’

The words sent a prickle of dread down Orc’s spine.

‘We were their prisoners,’ said Cass. ‘They didn’t tell us their plans.’

‘A shame you didn’t seek more assiduously to find them out. To think we had spies in the camp of the greatest enemy faced for centuries, and they proved too incompetent to look for anything.’

Orc had only half an ear on the insult. So the Kurassians, too, believed She would come. Even in their city of gold and iron, they feared Her.

‘Your Grace.’ His throat felt dry. ‘These “End Days”? What form would the Witch’s power take?’

The Prelate appeared surprised to have been asked a question, and unsure at first as to whether it merited an answer.

‘That has been a matter of speculation for some centuries.’

‘Do you think it might come through the ground?’

‘Through the ground?’

‘Softening it. Making it marsh. Buildings will sink. Railways.’ Just speaking the words sent a clammy chill across Orc’s shoulder-blades.

‘Some have predicted similar horrors,’ said Astrasis, regarding him more carefully. ‘The consensus is that corruption would spread from Golgomera, weakening the resolve and rationality of men. The world would revert to forest, and we would be reduced to savages. But this magician’s plot suggests the very distinction between thought and matter might break down, and nightmares be brought to physical life.’

‘Might?’ said Orc. ‘We saw it happen. And She’ll use it.’ The panicky conviction swelled in him. ‘She’s coming, right now.’

Cass elbowed him. ‘Orc …’

‘Alarmism,’ said the Prelate. ‘Empyreus would warn us of imminent attack. Our scientists are examining the evidence even now, and will devise a defence.’

‘Defence?’ The futility of it almost made Orc laugh with terror. ‘You’re next to the Great North Sea. All that mud, salt-marsh, estuaries — that stuff between land and water, that’s where She’s strongest. What defence can you make if that mud starts to rise and flow?’

Orc,’ hissed Cass.

‘No, let him speak.’ The Prelate strode to his desk and opened a drawer. ‘He interests me.’

Orc looked at his own forearms; he could almost feel creepers growing along his veins, under his skin, as though his body was made of the mud over which She ruled, was already one with the ground into which it would inevitably rot. He stood from his chair — Cass tugged his arm, but he pulled free. He needed to look into the gilt-framed mirror. The face that stared back seemed obviously a mask. He half-expected the gilded leaves that surrounded it to spring to green, growing, deadly life.

‘You think this gold will save you?’ he said, as understanding powered through him. ‘Don’t you realise? We’re all the Sun King, and she’s coming back to claim us! We are her rightful sacrifice!’

‘By God.’ The Prelate pulled out a pistol. Cries and protests erupted. Orc was yanked back down into his chair. Cass stood in front of him.

‘He didn’t mean anything,’ she told the Prelate. ‘What happened at the island affected him too.’

‘Evidently.’ The Prelate stepped towards them. ‘Sit down!’ he ordered Cass. ‘He’s in no danger if he answers well.’

He stood before Orc, the gun held ready. ‘What’s your name? Who are you?’

A laugh almost broke from him at the nonsense question. But a steel needle in his mind told him he must not laugh. These people all needed to cling to the world of surfaces as thin and bright as the gold-leaf on the mirror-frame. His life depended now on swimming back up to that transitory world, against the suck of the eternal deep.

He made himself speak. ‘Orc Strandborn.’ Meaningless syllables: the name of a mask.

‘And where are you from? Who are your parents?’

‘Does that matter?’ said Cass.

‘Don’t interrupt!’

Sweat tracked his temple. He’d been born at the margin of land and water, a no-place. He had no papers; he had no parents. Pretence was beyond him, and the idea of pretence affronted him — the truth meant more than his mayfly life. He leg muscles tensed, readying him. He would stand erect in the face of the gun and proclaim Her truth, declare Her coming.

Then Cass gripped his hand, and the shock of it — the flesh was warm, not like the thorned clasp of creepers, but her skin was damp. He suddenly understood that the pretence mattered, because it would keep her from fear, from hurt, and that mattered more than anything.

His back flushed with sweat. He squeezed, hard, her bones, her knuckles. Her strength, her belief in who he was. But who she believed him to be, that wasn’t what he must tell. With effort, he brought the rehearsed construction into focus. He spoke it out into the world of words: he told the gunman that he was the son of Kurassian immigrants to the Kymeran coast, his father an inventor of diving equipment. He rattled off the name of a school, his favourite teachers. He identified Cass and Tashi as children of his father’s sisters. All lies, a fabrication even in the world of surfaces — but the effort of trying to believe himself into the story brought that world out of eclipse again: shiny, detailed, defined as though by a bright sun.

‘Thank God.’ The Prelate lowered his pistol. Orc sagged, heart pounding, still fighting to firm up his fragile self. ‘For a moment, it seemed he might have the Bane.’

****************************************

In this short excerpt, I’m interested again in whether his shift in perception comes across as credible and vivid enough. I’m trying to get across the idea of a “lack of differentiation” without using anything like those words.


Stein’s department store occupied a wedge between two of the streets that ran into the five-way confluence of Haltspar Circus. Three policemen directed the traffic, but all the cabs and autos and drays and buses crawled so slowly that a constant stream of pedestrians walked between. It was the closest to real chaos Orc had seen in Bismark, and as he tiredly watched it all and smelt it all and heard it all, something shifted in his mind and a horrific perception attacked him — that only a flimsy barrier of order prevented all these people and animals from being crushed together into some … mass, of flesh and hair and wood and iron, like a wild and overgrown garden of bodies. And to his sick near-panic, he couldn’t remember what it was that prevented this happening. Something so flimsy it might be no more than thought.
 

tinkerdan

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I really got sucked into this one.

There were a couple of places I almost drifted while reading but instead of going back I found I was forging ahead to continue to read and to keep the mood the writing was giving me. Definitely the first section words its purpose though I'll need to read through it all again when my mind settles.

The second half works well though there was a small spot I almost felt like it was telling me yet when I read it back it didn't seem quite what it felt like the first time through. Again I'll reread later when I have more time to figure out if I'm just suffering from something I ate for lunch.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Congrats!

Excellent, as always. In terms of the 'slippage' the first excerpt worked very well for me, the second less so - it felt a little more telling and distant - but that could be the length of the segment.
 

alchemist

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Many thanks in advance to anyone who tackles this.
A challenge!


****************************************


‘Could he be raising more of these abominations?’ said asked? (I know this one is a matter of taste)the Prelate. ‘What is Sundara’s plan? Why a goddess? Have they made some alliance with the dark power of Golgomera, with the Witch? Are the End Days truly upon us?’

The words sent a prickle of dread down Orc’s spine.

‘We were their prisoners,’ said Cass. ‘They didn’t tell us their plans.’

‘A shame you didn’t seek more assiduously to find them out. To think we had spies in the camp of the greatest enemy faced for centuries, and they proved too incompetent to look for anything.’

Orc had only half an ear on the insult. So the Kurassians, too, believed She would come. Even in their city of gold and iron, they feared Her.

‘Your Grace.’ His throat felt dry. ‘These “End Days”? What form would the Witch’s power take?’

The Prelate appeared surprised to have been asked a question, and unsure at first as to whether it merited an answer.

‘That has been a matter of speculation for some centuries.’

‘Do you think it might come through the ground?’

‘Through the ground?’

‘Softening it. Making it marsh. Buildings will sink. Railways.’ Just speaking the words sent a clammy chill across Orc’s shoulder-blades. his back is very uncomfortable in this scene

‘Some have predicted similar horrors,’ said Astrasis, regarding him more carefully. ‘The consensus is that corruption would spread from Golgomera, weakening the resolve and rationality of men. The world would revert to forest, and we would be reduced to savages. But this magician’s plot suggests the very distinction between thought and matter might break down, and nightmares be brought to physical life.’

‘Might?’ said Orc. ‘We saw it happen. And She’ll use it.’ The panicky conviction swelled in him. ‘She’s coming, right now.’

Cass elbowed him. ‘Orc …’

‘Alarmism,’ said the Prelate. ‘Empyreus would warn us of imminent attack. Our scientists are examining the evidence even now, and will devise a defence.’

‘Defence?’ The futility of it almost made Orc laugh with terror. ‘You’re next to the Great North Sea. All that mud, salt-marsh, estuaries — that stuff between land and water, that’s where She’s strongest. What defence can you make if that mud starts to rise and flow?’

Orc,’ hissed Cass.

‘No, let him speak.’ The Prelate strode to his desk and opened a drawer. ‘He interests me.’

Orc looked at his own forearms; he could almost feel creepers growing along his veins, under his skin, as though his body was made of the mud over which She ruled, was already one with the ground into which it would inevitably rot. He stood from his chair — Cass tugged his arm, but he pulled free. He needed to look into the gilt-framed mirror. The face that stared back seemed obviouslya little paradoxical. I don't know if he is seeing this a mask. He half-expected the gilded leaves that surrounded it face or frame?to spring to green, growing, deadly life.

‘You think this gold will save you?’ he said, as understanding powered through him. ‘Don’t you realise? We’re all the Sun King, and she’s coming back to claim us! We are her rightful sacrifice!’

‘By God.’ The Prelate pulled out a pistol. Cries and protests erupted from who? Are there others in the room?. Orc was yanked back down into his chair. Cass stood in front of him.

‘He didn’t mean anything,’ she told the Prelate. ‘What happened at the island affected him too.’

‘Evidently.’ The Prelate stepped towards them. ‘Sit down!’ he ordered Cass. ‘He’s in no danger if he answers well.’

He stood before Orc, the gun held ready. ‘What’s your name? Who are you?’

A laugh almost broke from him at the nonsense question. But a steel needle in his mind told him he must not laugh. These people all needed to cling to the world of surfaces as thin and bright as the gold-leaf on the mirror-frame. His life depended now on swimming back up to that transitory world, against the suck of the eternal deep.

He made himself speak. ‘Orc Strandborn.’ Meaningless syllables: the name of a mask.

‘And where are you from? Who are your parents?’

‘Does that matter?’ said Cass.

‘Don’t interrupt!’

Sweat tracked his temple. He’d been born at the margin of land and water, a no-place. He had no papers; he had no parents. Pretence was beyond him, and the idea of pretence affronted him — the truth meant more than his mayfly life. He His leg muscles tensed, readying him. He would stand erect in the face of the gun and proclaim Her truth, declare Her coming.

Then Cass gripped his hand, and the shock of it — the flesh was warm, not like the thorned clasp of creepers, but her skin was damp. He suddenly understood that the pretence mattered, because it would keep her from fear, from hurt, and that mattered more than anything.

His back still pretty active!flushed with sweat. He squeezed, hard, her bones, her knuckles. Her strength, her belief in who he was. But who she believed him to be, that wasn’t what he must tell. With effort, he brought the rehearsed construction into focus. He spoke it out into the world of words: he told the gunman that he was the son of Kurassian immigrants to the Kymeran coast, his father an inventor of diving equipment. He rattled off the name of a school, his favourite teachers. He identified Cass and Tashi as children of his father’s sisters. All lies, a fabrication even in the world of surfaces — but the effort of trying to believe himself into the story brought that world out of eclipse again: shiny, detailed, defined as though by a bright sun. good stuff

‘Thank God.’ The Prelate lowered his pistol. Orc sagged, heart pounding, still fighting to firm up his fragile self. ‘For a moment, it seemed he might have the Bane.’

****************************************

In this short excerpt, I’m interested again in whether his shift in perception comes across as credible and vivid enough. I’m trying to get across the idea of a “lack of differentiation” without using anything like those words.


Stein’s department store occupied a wedge between two of the streets that ran into the five-way confluence of Haltspar Circus. Three policemen directed the traffic, but all the cabs and autos and drays and buses crawled so slowly that a constant stream of pedestrians walked between. It was the closest to real chaos Orc had seen in Bismark, and as he tiredly watched it all and smelt it all and heard it all, something shifted in his mind and a horrific perception attacked him — that only a flimsy barrier of order prevented all these people and animals from being crushed together into some … mass, of flesh and hair and wood and iron, like a wild and overgrown garden of bodies. And to his sick near-panic, he couldn’t remember what it was that prevented this happening. Something so flimsy it might be no more than thought. I like it. I like lots of ANDs for this sort of thing too

Congratulations on the big 5k! This is as good as always. I found Orc's madness confusing; was he seeing those things or not? His recovery worked for me, and the city scene was well done.
 

Bowler1

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Well done HB, you pulled off a confusing scene with just the right amount of confusion for me. The only thing that struck me was the lack of danger I felt from the Prelate when he pull the gun. He never even pulled back the hammer that I could see, and the fact the Cass immediately states there is no danger removed tension, when it was tension you needed. The pulling of the gun I think is key to the plot, madness and danger both together (very clever writing), so for me, I'd push that knife edge of danger a little more, to counterpoint the madness, push the madness etc. - Yeah, just before his back flushes with sweat I'd have that hammer go back, even give the Prelate a shaky hand.


I've long since realised that when it comes to reviews it's usually just my thoughts, so I wouldn't worry too much. Your 5k posts have not been wasted, your writing is as ever, just fantastic.


The second little bite sized chunk was fun too.
 

Hex

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‘Could he be raising more of these abominations?’ said the Prelate. ‘What is Sundara’s plan? Why a goddess? Have they made some alliance with the dark power of Golgomera, with the Witch? Are the End Days truly upon us?’ [he says a lot here... I wobbled on it until Cass's comment below]

The words sent a prickle of dread down Orc’s spine.

‘We were their prisoners,’ said Cass. ‘They didn’t tell us their plans.’ [I love Cass]

‘A shame you didn’t seek more assiduously to find them out. To think we had spies in the camp of the greatest enemy faced for centuries, and they proved too incompetent to look for anything.’

Orc had only half an ear on the insult. So the Kurassians, too, believed She would come. Even in their city of gold and iron, they feared Her.

‘Your Grace.’ His throat felt dry. ‘These “End Days”? What form would the Witch’s power take?’

The Prelate appeared surprised to have been asked a question, and unsure at first as to whether it merited an answer.

‘That has been a matter of speculation for some centuries.’

‘Do you think it might come through the ground?’

‘Through the ground?’

‘Softening it. Making it marsh. Buildings will sink. Railways.’ Just speaking the words sent a clammy chill across Orc’s shoulder-blades.

‘Some have predicted similar horrors,’ said Astrasis, regarding him more carefully. ‘The consensus is that corruption would spread from Golgomera, weakening the resolve and rationality of men. The world would revert to forest, and we would be reduced to savages. But this magician’s plot suggests the very distinction between thought and matter might break down, and nightmares be brought to physical life.’

‘Might?’ said Orc. ‘We saw it happen. And She’ll use it.’ The panicky conviction swelled in him. ‘She’s coming, right now.’

Cass elbowed him. ‘Orc …’

‘Alarmism,’ said the Prelate. ‘Empyreus would warn us of imminent attack. Our scientists are examining the evidence even now, and will devise a defence.’ [he seems willfully obtuse here since they just came from the camp of his enemies]

‘Defence?’ The futility of it almost made Orc laugh with terror. ‘You’re next to the Great North Sea. All that mud, salt-marsh, estuaries — that stuff between land and water, that’s where She’s strongest. What defence can you make if that mud starts to rise and flow?’

Orc,’ hissed Cass. [I am very much with Cass...]

‘No, let him speak.’ The Prelate strode to his desk and opened a drawer. ‘He interests me.’

Orc looked at his own forearms; he could almost feel creepers growing along his veins, under his skin, as though his body was made of the mud over which She ruled, was already one with the ground into which it would inevitably rot. He stood from his chair — Cass tugged his arm, but he pulled free. He needed to look into the gilt-framed mirror. The face that stared back seemed obviously a mask. He half-expected the gilded leaves that surrounded it to spring to green, growing, deadly life. [ooooh yes. I love that]

‘You think this gold will save you?’ he said, as understanding powered through him. ‘Don’t you realise? We’re all the Sun King, and she’s coming back to claim us! We are her rightful sacrifice!’

‘By God.’ The Prelate pulled out a pistol. Cries and protests erupted. Orc was yanked back down into his chair. Cass stood in front of him.

‘He didn’t mean anything,’ she told the Prelate. ‘What happened at the island affected him too.’

‘Evidently.’ The Prelate stepped towards them. ‘Sit down!’ he ordered Cass. ‘He’s in no danger if he answers well.’

He stood before Orc, the gun held ready. ‘What’s your name? Who are you?’

A laugh almost broke from him at the nonsense question. But a steel needle in his mind told him he must not laugh. These people all needed to cling to the world of surfaces as thin and bright as the gold-leaf on the mirror-frame. His life depended now on swimming back up to that transitory world, against the suck of the eternal deep.

He made himself speak. ‘Orc Strandborn.’ Meaningless syllables: the name of a mask.

‘And where are you from? Who are your parents?’

‘Does that matter?’ said Cass.

‘Don’t interrupt!’

Sweat tracked his temple. He’d been born at the margin of land and water, a no-place. He had no papers; he had no parents. Pretence was beyond him, and the idea of pretence affronted him — the truth meant more than his mayfly life. He leg muscles tensed, readying him. He would stand erect in the face of the gun and proclaim Her truth, declare Her coming. [barking... this is a tiny bit more complex since he already decided to tell them his fake name. So what's made him sink again?]

Then Cass gripped his hand, and the shock of it — the [I don't like this 'the', but I don't know why] flesh was warm, not like the thorned clasp of creepers, but her skin was damp. He suddenly understood that the pretence mattered, because it would keep her from fear, from hurt, and that mattered more than anything.

His back flushed with sweat. He squeezed, hard, her bones, her knuckles. Her strength, her belief in who he was. But who she believed him to be, that wasn’t what he must tell. With effort, he brought the rehearsed construction into focus. He spoke it out into the world of words: he told the gunman that he was the son of Kurassian immigrants to the Kymeran coast, his father an inventor of diving equipment. He rattled off the name of a school, his favourite teachers. He identified Cass and Tashi as children of his father’s sisters. All lies, a fabrication even in the world of surfaces — but the effort of trying to believe himself into the story brought that world out of eclipse again: shiny, detailed, defined as though by a bright sun. [is the Prelate asking questions or is Orc just vomiting this whole thing up? At first, I thought that, then I considered the Prelate might be asking... so a tiny bit confused, though the section is fabulous]

‘Thank God.’ The Prelate lowered his pistol. Orc sagged, heart pounding, still fighting to firm up his fragile self. ‘For a moment, it seemed he might have the Bane.’

****************************************

In this short excerpt, I’m interested again in whether his shift in perception comes across as credible and vivid enough. I’m trying to get across the idea of a “lack of differentiation” without using anything like those words.


Stein’s department store occupied a wedge between two of the streets that ran into the five-way confluence of Haltspar Circus. Three policemen directed the traffic, but all the cabs and autos and drays and buses crawled so slowly that a constant stream of pedestrians walked between. It was the closest to real chaos Orc had seen in Bismark, and as he tiredly watched it all and smelt it all and heard it all, something shifted in his mind and a horrific perception attacked him — that only a flimsy barrier of order prevented all these people and animals from being crushed together into some … mass, of flesh and hair and wood and iron, like a wild and overgrown garden of bodies. And to his sick near-panic, he couldn’t remember what it was that prevented this happening. Something so flimsy it might be no more than thought. [I really like that]
 

Brian G Turner

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I enjoyed this - I thought Orc's changing perceptions of his self worked really well.

The only part I stumbled over was:

‘By God.’ The Prelate pulled out a pistol. Cries and protests erupted. Orc was yanked back down into his chair. Cass stood in front of him.

I presume, though, that you'd already established the setting before this extract, so the context would be clearer.
 

HareBrain

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Thanks very much for the feedback so far, all. I'm glad it seems mostly to work. There are a few things I'll come back to when I have time, but I thought I ought to post something right now and rectify my post count, because it now stands at only 4999! Seems some thread to which I contributed has been consigned to the outer darkness of the Lounge.

(Interestingly, the same thing happened to Chopper when he inaugurated the X000-post tradition.)
 

Boneman

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Well, I enjoyed it, as always, and I think Orc's desperation/madness comes over extremely well in part one, and there's real tension in the scene. I suppose my one carp is a small one, but why the reported speech when he informs the Prelate of his background? I'd like to quote (boring, I know, but it's relevant here) Patrick Rothfuss on dialogue vs exposition:

Dialogue is harder to write. Dialogue takes longer to write. Dialogue takes more words. Dialogue takes more space. But it seems like it's faster, and quicker for the reader to read.

In a small way, because Orc is desperate not to let on who they are (Cass saves the day again!) and the conversation has gone back and forth so well, it seems a shame to not see a few lines of him actually talking. Especially since the Prelate only asks: who are your parents? but Orc gives a convincing reply with loads more. I'd be suspicious: 'why's he telling me all this when I only asked who his parents were?' thought the Prelate. 'He must be hiding something' is one way of looking at it. And it does dilute some of the tension, slipping into the telling. Having said all that, it does work well, so it's a small carp. Maybe a tench...

The second piece is fine...
 

HareBrain

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Had a bit more time, so here are some follow-up questions/thoughts. Thanks again!

I found Orc's madness confusing; was he seeing those things or not?

He's not hallucinating anything. Do you mean when he looks in the mirror and understands his face to be a mask? I only meant that he has no sense of identification with it. Should I find another way to put that, do you think? Was anything else in particular confusing?

The only thing that struck me was the lack of danger I felt from the Prelate when he pull the gun.

I'll give this some thought -- I must admit the question has occurred to me before. The trouble is that if the apparent danger is ramped up, the others on Orc's side (there are three others present, though they don't say anything in this bit) would be more likely to act or speak and slow the scene down. Hmm.

‘Alarmism,’ said the Prelate. ‘Empyreus would warn us of imminent attack. Our scientists are examining the evidence even now, and will devise a defence.’ [he seems willfully obtuse here since they just came from the camp of his enemies]

Not quite clear what you mean there, sorry. He believes the immediate threat (Daroguerre's goddess monstrosity) to have been nullified, which it has. (Ah, you won't know that he has already explained that ships have gone back to examine the island and have found her corpse: is that it?)

[barking... this is a tiny bit more complex since he already decided to tell them his fake name. So what's made him sink again?]

My "reasoning" was that the Prelate's questions about his parents and origin -- neither of which he can give genuine answers to -- push him back again into a state of no-self. Does that work/make sense, or does it need to be made clearer?

[is the Prelate asking questions or is Orc just vomiting this whole thing up? At first, I thought that, then I considered the Prelate might be asking... so a tiny bit confused, though the section is fabulous]

I'll make it clear the Prelate is asking questions (which will also deal with Boneman's point about Orc's answer being suspicously extensive). Thanks.

I suppose my one carp is a small one, but why the reported speech when he informs the Prelate of his background?

Well, the details of the made-up past aren't important, and of that paragraph, I'd still need the beginning and end, so I'd be replacing about forty words with probably at least five times that. My instinct is that's not a good idea, and I don't think it would add to the tension that's already there.

I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts on that point, though.
 

alchemist

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I know dialogue can read better than exposition but I agree with the way you did it. Getting that much info in dialogue, without it appearing stilted ans self-serving (for you) would take too long and slow things down. You need to keep the pace and tension here.

He's not hallucinating anything. Do you mean when he looks in the mirror and understands his face to be a mask? I only meant that he has no sense of identification with it. Should I find another way to put that, do you think? Was anything else in particular confusing?

Re-reading it, I see this now, but the "obviously" threw me first time and made me think he was hallucinating.
 

hopewrites

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Im on my phone and cant do it justice now, but i wanted to squeak in my congratulations and say I have enjoyed reading another except from this story.
The struggle out is very clear. I, personally, love that our perception of his decent and struggle back to the surface mirror his perception of it. One is rarely aware one is falling into madness and one struggles back when one does become aware. So from that stand point, yes it reads credibly.
On the other hand, I wonder if you asked because you feel things should be more clearly defined. That perhaps your audience should be outside Orc's head and watching him clearly, seeing him not ad he sees himself, but as he is seen. If that is the perception you are after, then no his decent is unclear though his struggle back is. Although, I do wonder if we have seen the decent elsewhere and are witnessing a piece of a more prolonged struggle. Coming in and out of madness is a process not easily defined or even demarcated by specific events.


In short you have left me once again wishing i could get my claws into the full manuscript before answering properly.
 

Bowler1

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I'll give this some thought -- I must admit the question has occurred to me before. The trouble is that if the apparent danger is ramped up, the others on Orc's side (there are three others present, though they don't say anything in this bit) would be more likely to act or speak and slow the scene down. Hmm.


I had a rifle pointed at me once (A British soldier during the NI troubles and shared on a thread here somewhere) and I didn't say a word, I clammed right up. The shock had a lot to do with it, but mostly I didn't want to do anything stupid (I'm well know for stupid) right there and then. I found being on the wrong end of a rifle perked my attention levels right up. Anyway, just a little personal experience to go on, not very useful I suspect.
 

HareBrain

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On the other hand, I wonder if you asked because you feel things should be more clearly defined. That perhaps your audience should be outside Orc's head and watching him clearly, seeing him not ad he sees himself, but as he is seen. If that is the perception you are after, then no his decent is unclear though his struggle back is. Although, I do wonder if we have seen the decent elsewhere and are witnessing a piece of a more prolonged struggle. Coming in and out of madness is a process not easily defined or even demarcated by specific events.

Thanks, Hope. For me, it's more important that we're in his perception rather than how others see him, so that's good to know, thanks. Yes, it's part of a longer struggle, but this is his deepest moment so far. Knowing how much to put in of his up-and-down route, how much to vary it, is quite difficult and I'm going on feel at the moment, slipping in the occasional bit like the second, shorter excerpt. When I have the whole manuscript, you'll be welcome to get your claws into it!

I had a rifle pointed at me once (A British soldier during the NI troubles and shared on a thread here somewhere) and I didn't say a word, I clammed right up. The shock had a lot to do with it, but mostly I didn't want to do anything stupid (I'm well know for stupid) right there and then. I found being on the wrong end of a rifle perked my attention levels right up. Anyway, just a little personal experience to go on, not very useful I suspect.

It is useful, thanks. Now i think about it from the POV of the Prelate, rather than an external dramatist, I wonder why he has to be quite so threatening. From his perspective, he needs the gun to hand in case Orc launches at him, but maybe he should just place it on the desk and stay there himself -- he could still ask his questions from there, and be more out of reach.
 

Bowler1

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I wonder why he has to be quite so threatening.


Walking softly with a big stick - an Irish expression but you should get the idea. Calm backed up with force is always more un-nerving I think. The section was very good mate, and you have touch and skill to make it shine even more. It was a pleasure to read, don't go picking at it too much (easier said than done I'm sure).
 

Cosmic Geoff

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What I got from this was that Orc's reality was different from that of the prelate, and that Orc had also constructed an elaborate cover story to fit with his presence in this world. I didn't get the idea that Orc was necessarily mad (unless he's hallucinated the entire swamp goddess thing, but this is a fantasy story...)
It's pretty good, and well written. Also plus marks for not using the stock medieval-fantasy setting.

With the second part, it's like the scene stays the same but his way of looking at it and his feelng about it changes. Very good.
 

HareBrain

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Thanks Geoff

In case anyone finds it interesting, I'll try here to get across better what I was aiming for with the second bit, because I might have been a bit vague. A while ago I was walking through a wood, and tried to put myself in the mind of someone existing before language. So I wouldn't know that that was an "oak", and that an "ash", and that a "butcher's broom" -- not only that, but I wouldn't even know that tree was separate from ground and separate from bush. Suddenly, in a moment of almost Lovecraftian horror, I beheld the possibility of the wood as a single organism of many different-shaped protuberances. By removing language, I had removed the differentiation between things, the separation and categorisation we take for granted. I'm trying to get that across with the milling crowds Orc sees, but without going into the kind of explanation I've just done.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Congratulations on the 5000 mad posts! :D

I'll have to get back to this when I have more time, which I will undoubtedly forget, so you should just bludgeon me with a pot of wet noodles now and save the time later.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Thanks Geoff

In case anyone finds it interesting, I'll try here to get across better what I was aiming for with the second bit, because I might have been a bit vague. A while ago I was walking through a wood, and tried to put myself in the mind of someone existing before language. So I wouldn't know that that was an "oak", and that an "ash", and that a "butcher's broom" -- not only that, but I wouldn't even know that tree was separate from ground and separate from bush. Suddenly, in a moment of almost Lovecraftian horror, I beheld the possibility of the wood as a single organism of many different-shaped protuberances. By removing language, I had removed the differentiation between things, the separation and categorisation we take for granted. I'm trying to get that across with the milling crowds Orc sees, but without going into the kind of explanation I've just done.

Gark. The thinking lost me but I totally salute you. :)
 
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