An Excerpt from Chapter 5 of book 1 of my new series.

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ErikB

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A little background before I share this first time getting a critique on the site. I have been writing for a long time. I have 3 books published and now I have a new science fiction series coming out. The series is titled; "Chronicles of Lonorangg" and starts off with "Krygan's Pets" which introduces Krygan Vack, the primary protagonist in the series.

Krygan's Pets is about a mid level alien Lord Holder from an intelligent and very powerful race of aliens called ultach that live on a large and heavy gravity lush world of Lonorangg. Krygan has a hobby acquiring and keeping primitive species as pets including bipeds. He captures some sample specimens of humans on one of his exploratory journeys and it is through the mental gifts of one of his captives (a human woman named Jennifer) and the help of a few other pets including an alien half breed female that he winds up surviving an attack and dealing with his enemies and detractors in a very wild story.

The greatest aspect to Krygan Vack is not his high tech dealings with advanced species which keeps him well ahead of others in the quest for arms and technology. Rather it lies with his main pet Marsdek. The only tamed enithorox in the history of his species.

Enithorox are tough creatures. They vaguely resemble a wolf and a big cat in combination and have a natural bioradiation that degrades energy fields and warps projectile weapons. They are immensely difficult to kill. And topping their blinding speed, strength, and stamina they are also venomous. The dew claws and inner fangs of an enithorox are highly toxic.

Everyone on Lonorangg wants the secret of how Krygan tamed the planet's apex predator. There are dreams of military and personal applications for these creatures. But Krygan is not talking where Marsdek is concerned.

This excerpt is from Chapter five "Strange Bedfellows" and introduces the half breed Ylloria to readers. (A gender note: Male ultach are referred to as ulanoc. Females are called ulanari.)

Chapter 5.


Ylloria sat by her window staring at the mygath flock that buzzed around the pink and white tulan orchid flowers. Mygath had blue and purple iridescent feathers on their heads with a bright yellow-gold stripe running along their dorsal region, and it was bordered in black. White bellies with black stripes made for a nice contrast to their duller metallic green and dark brown backs. As she sat in the window box and stared, a soft footfall coupled with the light jingle of thin metal discs that trimmed the hem and border of the new arrival’s clothing. Yellow, pink, and aqua colours. Deep emerald stones were set in a necklace adorning her neck and body.

She glanced at her guest briefly before returning her gaze to the garden flowers and small birds.

“Hello my Lady Pawgwyn. How are you good lady?”

“I am well Ylloria. The Lord Holder has asked me to send you to his office chambers. He would not say why however. This made me curious. Have you had any recent visitations from our Lord Krygan?”

Pawgwyn’s honey yellow eyes studied Ylloria carefully and with a hint of suspicion in them.

Ylloria smiled and continued to stare out the window.

“You mean has he been bedding me? And the answer is no. I’ve not had any attention from our Lord for many a seasonal cycle Lady Pawgwyn. You needn’t worry on that count. I remain a discarded bauble to be used from time to time entertaining his more important and deviant diplomatic friends and rivals.”

“I see. Well he summons you now. Better not to keep him waiting. Up up!”

As she rose from her seated position her deep metallic emerald green eyes flashed in the sunlight and in spite of their stations as servant and House Lady, Pawgwyn took a hesitant step back. Her barely hidden contempt for the young half-breed was mixed with her fear of Ylloria’s other parentage. Her features mixed the brutal strength and physical fitness of the ultach with the psionic mind powers as well as some of the subtle biochemical defenses that made the vanac a difficult race to encounter or deal with.

As Ylloria bowed her head and passed Pawgwyn the ulanari noted with even more jealousy the subtle way that Ylloria walked. It was the elegance of a great jungle haureen in the form of a rival. She would have hurt her physically if she could, but she knew well that Krygan was aware of her discomfort and jealousy with Ylloria. If anything happened to his precious half-breed she had no doubt that she’d end up in a private room with his nasty filthy minded donadar. And as far as she was concerned she’d rather procreate with an animal than allow Q-Iythe the opportunity to torture her or touch her with his nasty genitals.

Pawgwyn fumed as she returned to her station and wondered if she still had any listening devices that functioned in his office? She knew how frequently he swept the place for bugs. Still, it didn’t hurt to check. Perhaps she could find out what the Lord Holder was up to.

Ylloria’s soft silken gowns flowed and billowed behind her as she walked with her head lowered toward the office chambers. But at the door stood the donadar and he smiled and had her stop.

“Lord Holder Vack asks that you join him in the gardens. But you are not to discus this detour with anyone else. He awaits you there. He’s in the upper gardens by the water features.”

She nodded bowing to him.

“As you wish master donadar. Good day to you sir.”

She turned and left and Q-Iythe smiled and watched her go. He had long admired her body and physical features. But he was more interested in her gifts than her form. And with all his scientific objectivity normally in place, it also bothered him a little that in spite of being so much above her in rank, social status, and certainly in his official duties and capacity, there was something not born of his normal lust that stirred in him when he heard her voice.

She made him feel a little more clean and pure inside, if that were possible. He got a slight warmth in his heart that was uncharacteristic and he both enjoyed this and feared it too. It was a weakness, and he hated weakness. Still it made him grin and toy with hidden fantasies of a more romantic nature, until the ugly truth of his nature made him hate himself for even toying with the notion of feelings and love. He shook his head and stormed off. He had to go kill something or torture someone to get himself back on track. He grinned and headed back to check in on Uvosh in his private cell.



Great trees towered around the lake and fast flowing streams of Lord Holder Vack’s upper gardens. The smell of korusonium flowers and the pungent musk of tutu vine filaments always made her feel better. The gardens were beautiful and she loved the fact that he was meeting her here rather than his cold dark black office.

A shadow followed her in the dense bushes and plants to the right of the garden path. She turned to face it and Marsdek approached her from under a large leafed fern. The stripped enithorox padded up to her briskly. But unlike most of those it encountered there was no wrath or aggression or indifference toward Ylloria.

Krygan had remarked in the past as to how disturbing it was to see his beloved pet approach her and seek gentle affection from the girl. Even now Marsdek chirped his contentment as she crouched down and smiled. She enjoyed him and this was obviously quite mutual as the most deadly animal in the garden and in fact on all of the continent now rubbed up against her gently. She scratched behind his ears and he turned his head and delighted in her touch.

“You look as beautiful as the last time we met Marsdek!” She said softly and Marsdek continued to chirp his purred delight and he leaned in closer making her smile even more.

From a bend in the path Lord Krygan approached them and to his astonishment Marsdek bristled at him for a moment and then relaxed again and put himself between Ylloria and Krygan. She stood suddenly and bowed to him.

“Forgive me Lord Krygan. I did not mean to tarry.”

He snapped his fingers and Marsdek reluctantly stood and then sauntered over to him and rubbed his head once against Krygan’s thigh before sitting down at his side. Krygan smiled and then looked Ylloria over for a moment before he spoke.

“Ylloria, there’s nothing to forgive. Come, walk with me.”

She stepped forward and walked along side of Krygan but slightly behind him and Marsdek took the opportunity to rub against her more than a few times as he strode between the two. His playful and content chirping persisted as he delighted in her presence.

Krygan glanced down at Marsdek and then looked at Ylloria’s face. She had her head lowered a bit as if nervous or shy.

“He likes you Ylloria.”

She nodded absently.

“Yes my Lord. I am fond of him as well.”

Krygan laughed a very genuine and amused tone.

“You know, General Sycress was in my office and trembled when Marsdek drew close enough to him. All other ultach fear him. Male and female. Warriors and servants alike. Everyone fears Marsdek. As do every visiting dignitary and guest. And he doesn’t like anyone in my palace, except for you Ylloria. For some strange reason he has a deep thing for you and it is always a wonder for me to see this. It makes me think Ylloria. I wonder what it is about you that Marsdek so favors?”

“I do not know my Lord. Truly I have no idea. But he’s a sweet creature and beautiful as well. I like him a lot.”

Krygan nodded still smiling that devious knowing grin that always threw her off a bit.

“I can see that. Do you not know what he can do? I mean what sort of animal he is?”

“If you are asking if I grasp how deadly a predator he is or whether I am aware that he could kill hundreds of battle armoured ultach shock troops and likely survive with little or no injury, or that he moves with a speed that is beyond the capacity of the eye to follow when need be, then yes my Lord Holder. I know this well. Everyone on Lonorangg knows what an enithorox can do. But to me he’s just Marsdek. He’s a majestic creature and his eyes speak to my heart Lord Krygan. I cannot help it. That’s just how I see him.”
 
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The Judge

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Hi

The limit here in Critiques is 1500 words. Your excerpt well exceeded that. I've therefore edited it down so it's within the limit. If when this has been critiqued you want to post the second half of this, then you can open a new thread for it, but do leave it several days, so you can take on board the feedback you get here and make any necessary changes to the next part.
 

ErikB

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Hi

The limit here in Critiques is 1500 words. Your excerpt well exceeded that. I've therefore edited it down so it's within the limit. If when this has been critiqued you want to post the second half of this, then you can open a new thread for it, but do leave it several days, so you can take on board the feedback you get here and make any necessary changes to the next part.

Greetings!

Thank you very much. I will bear the length in mind next time and divide the post into two halves if it is overly wordy. I appreciate your help. Cheers!
 
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Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
I'll try to get to a line crit over the weekend (I noticed a couple of grammar issues) but what stood out to me was the amount of description and how forced much of it felt. What would your pov really notice? What do we need to see accurately? At the moment I have no idea what to focus on.
 

ErikB

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I'll try to get to a line crit over the weekend (I noticed a couple of grammar issues) but what stood out to me was the amount of description and how forced much of it felt. What would your pov really notice? What do we need to see accurately? At the moment I have no idea what to focus on.

There was a bit more but due to length it had to be edited down. I will look forward to hearing your more detailed overview as your question has me a bit baffled.

What would your POV really notice?

What would whose POV notice?

The reader? The main character? I'm not sure if I am misinterpreting the inquiry... At any rate I will await your in depth overview and thank you for taking the time to read this little offering. I hope that the introduction to Ylloria and a task that Krygan has for her has not been too confusing.

I will also answer any questions about back story that might fill in the gaps given that this excerpt had to be shortened by a staff member as I had submitted too lengthy a sample.

Cheers! :)
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
There was a bit more but due to length it had to be edited down. I will look forward to hearing your more detailed overview as your question has me a bit baffled.

What would your POV really notice?

What would whose POV notice?

The reader? The main character? I'm not sure if I am misinterpreting the inquiry... At any rate I will await your in depth overview and thank you for taking the time to read this little offering. I hope that the introduction to Ylloria and a task that Krygan has for her has not been too confusing.

I will also answer any questions about back story that might fill in the gaps given that this excerpt had to be shortened by a staff member as I had submitted too lengthy a sample.

Cheers! :)

Ach I'm still up, so here you go. I've only done the start as my comments remained much the same to the end, and concentrated on why your description is incongruent with close pov, which you seem to be writing in. I hope it makes sense. (It's late here...)



Chapter 5.


Ylloria in starting with her, you indicate she is the point of view character - unless you have an omnipresent pov but it doesn't feel like it. sat by her window staring at the mygath flock that buzzed around the pink and white tulan orchid okay, so I look out my window at my nice nasturtiums at the mo and I think nice nusturiums, not nice deep orange nasturiums - so it's about (when we're in close pov which is kind of my specialism - if you want something more distant you can safely ignore this) what we would actually think as opposed to what the reader needs to know (but on another note - why does the reader need to know the colour? They'll fill in the blanks from orchids and move on. In forcing them to stop and see your exact vision, you pull a reader out.) flowers. Mygath had blue and purple iridescent feathers on their heads with a bright yellow-gold stripe running along their dorsal region, and it was bordered in black. And who on Earth would think this, ever? If I see a robin I don't think of his red breast against dun brown feathers - I just see a robin. I'm not anti description, btw, but it's about describing from the character experience, which keeps us in the story, or pulling us out. So, for instance if you said something like it was turning to winter - theit white bellies showed that - and she hated winter, I stay in the scene. But to stop the story to describe them asks me to come put, take that in and go back in - and 9/10 I'll have forgotten your description anyway and still imagine what my mind injected.) White bellies with black stripes made for a nice contrast to their duller metallic green and dark brown backs. As she sat in the window box and stared, a soft footfall coupled with the light jingle of thin metal discs that trimmed the hem and border of the new arrival’s clothing. Yellow, pink, and aqua colours. Deep emerald stones were set in a necklace adorning her neck and body.how can she see all this? She's looking at the birds. Now I don't know where to look...

She glanced at her guest briefly see? She's only glancing now? Which means I was pulled from her pov to an omniprescent and back to hers, and my attention has wandered. before returning her gaze to the garden flowers and small birds.

“Hello my Lady Pawgwyn. How are you comma needed good lady?”

“I am well comma needed - before a direct address a comma is always neededYlloria. The Lord Holder has asked me to send you to his office chambers. He would not say why however. This made me curious. Have you had any recent visitations from our Lord Krygan?”

Pawgwyn’s honey yellow eyes studied Ylloria carefully and with a hint of suspicionso what does a hint of suspicion look like? Show if you can. in them.

Ylloria smiled and continued to stare out the window.

“You mean has he been bedding me? And the answer is no. I’ve not had any attention from our Lord for many a seasonal cycle Lady Pawgwyn. You needn’t worry on that count. I remain a discarded bauble to be used from time to time entertaining his more important and deviant diplomatic friends and rivals.”

“I see. Well he summons you now. Better not to keep him waiting. Up up!”

As she rose from her seated position her deep metallic emerald greenokay. Do you ever think of your own deep brown honeyed eyes (or whatever)? We don't. Which takes us again out of the point of view and the immersion of the scene eyes flashed in the sunlight and in spite of their stations as servant and House Lady, Pawgwyn took a hesitant step back. Her barely hidden contempt for the young half-breed was mixed with her fear of Ylloria’s other parentage. Her features mixed the brutal strength and physical fitness of the ultach with the psionic mind powers as well as some of the subtle biochemical defenses that made the vanac a difficult race to encounter or deal with.

As Ylloria bowed her head and passed Pawgwyn the ulanari noted with even more jealousy this is a point of view jump to Pawgwyn, which is currently pretty out of vogue in sff books. the subtle way that Ylloria walked. It was the elegance of a great jungle haureen in the form of a rival. She would have hurt her physically if she could, but she knew well that Krygan was aware of her discomfort and jealousy with Ylloria. If anything happened to his precious half-breed she had no doubt that she’d end up in a private room with his nasty filthy minded donadar. And as far as she was concerned she’d rather procreate with an animal than allow Q-Iythe the opportunity to torture her or touch her with his nasty genitals.

I hope it helps!

Oh, and also, we don't need a long excerpt and context. In fact, it doesn't help. (Used to annoy/confuse the hell out of me, that.) if we can't grasp the context enough to crit, Houston you have a problem. The mods are right - shorter excerpts get better and richer crits and you can take the responses and apply them elsewhere more easily.
 
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Brian G Turner

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First things first - it's a lot better to post the opening, because most mistakes are usually obvious here. It also allows us to be introduced to the story and make comment as appropriate. By choosing a later chapter, none of us have any real sense of context which will no doubt have an effect on this.

You focus a lot on visual imagery, but this seems to be at the expense of anything else. Ylloria notes the colours of birds, the other person's eyes, her eyes, the other person's gown and walk, etc. She even feels jealous. But we never really get a sense of what she actually wants - no real sense of motivation or internal conflict within her.

POV use also darts about - Ylloria notices her own eye colour, then you jump to Q-Iythe to get something of his feelings. While there remains some tolerance for Omniscient POV among readers, the SFF genre is now very much focused on Third Person Limited or First Person POV use.

In the second section we still see almost nothing of Ylloria's internal processes - except that she regards the garden as beautiful, which is stated at the beginning. After that, it's all stage-direction and dialogue, and everything is focused on observing and explaining Marsdeck. This results is Ylloria coming across as passive and redundant in her own scene.

I get a sense that you have a rich world here, and the potential for intrigue - but the lack of character development and the shift in POV use make it appear superficial so far, and lacking the depth I know you want to communicate.

To address these issues I always recommend Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook, as it provides very comprehensive coverage on technical issues, and Blake Synder's Save the Cat, as it's a sharp and concise guide to developing character motivation and conflict.

2c.
 

ErikB

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Ach I'm still up, so here you go. I've only done the start as my comments remained much the same to the end, and concentrated on why your description is incongruent with close pov, which you seem to be writing in. I hope it makes sense. (It's late here...)





I hope it helps!

Oh, and also, we don't need a long excerpt and context. In fact, it doesn't help. (Used to annoy/confuse the hell out of me, that.) if we can't grasp the context enough to crit, Houston you have a problem. The mods are right - shorter excerpts get better and richer crits and you can take the responses and apply them elsewhere more easily.

Thank you for clarifying on what you were seeing. Too much length on the description of the alien pollinating birds, the comma rule I will look into. I have never heard of this in any of the writing forums I have been on. But I am appreciative of the mention.

The eye colour is more important than you are aware as there is back story to my aliens. The ultach (half of Ylloria's parentage) have a base colour of yellow in their eyes that moves to orange then red then violet, purple, and almost black as their social status within society increases.

The vanac on the other hand have reflective sapphire blue eyes. Being that she is half and half the colour of emerald green is shared with the reader.

The reason I bother mentioning Pawgwyn's eye tone is that she is a house Lady. Her dominant status among females has enriched the colour of her eyes even though the colour shift is less pronounced in ulanari (females) than in ulanoc (males).

I will take all of your points under advisement. I am grateful for the feedback. Thank you.

Cheers! :)
 
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ErikB

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First things first - it's a lot better to post the opening, because most mistakes are usually obvious here. It also allows us to be introduced to the story and make comment as appropriate. By choosing a later chapter, none of us have any real sense of context which will no doubt have an effect on this.

You focus a lot on visual imagery, but this seems to be at the expense of anything else. Ylloria notes the colours of birds, the other person's eyes, her eyes, the other person's gown and walk, etc. She even feels jealous. But we never really get a sense of what she actually wants - no real sense of motivation or internal conflict within her.

POV use also darts about - Ylloria notices her own eye colour, then you jump to Q-Iythe to get something of his feelings. While there remains some tolerance for Omniscient POV among readers, the SFF genre is now very much focused on Third Person Limited or First Person POV use.

In the second section we still see almost nothing of Ylloria's internal processes - except that she regards the garden as beautiful, which is stated at the beginning. After that, it's all stage-direction and dialogue, and everything is focused on observing and explaining Marsdeck. This results is Ylloria coming across as passive and redundant in her own scene.

I get a sense that you have a rich world here, and the potential for intrigue - but the lack of character development and the shift in POV use make it appear superficial so far, and lacking the depth I know you want to communicate.

To address these issues I always recommend Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook, as it provides very comprehensive coverage on technical issues, and Blake Synder's Save the Cat, as it's a sharp and concise guide to developing character motivation and conflict.

2c.

Thank you very much. I will look into all of your points and advice. Much appreciated. I realize that I have started at a point that does not allow for background to be well established to my critiquing group, but this book is also close to publication.

The opening chapter sets the mood and background of the book. But I feel it is safer to use a middle chapter as a sample given that the book is very close to publication pending a few areas of draft completion.

Also to clarify, Ylloria is not looking at her own eyes or noticing a reflection of her eye colour. You are the first reader to share this idea with me.

I will double check the way it is written to see more of my shifting the perspective and POV unintentionally.

Thank you so much for all of your advice. A lot to consider and address. Cheers!
 

Toby Frost

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Other people are better placed than me to go through the passage in detail, particularly with regard to point of view.

However, my main negative criticism would be that there is a slightly awkwardness that runs through some of the text, partly because I think you are trying to force descriptions in where they don't quite fit. For instance, this sentence:

She enjoyed him and this was obviously quite mutual as the most deadly animal in the garden and in fact on all of the continent now rubbed up against her gently

feels as if it is there as much to tell the reader that Marsdek is very dangerous as to say what's happening. But it feels forced into the sentence to me. It's like saying "the blue-eyed man" to describe someone where "Dave" would do, because you're trying to tell the reader that Dave's eyes are blue. I think the reader would realise that Marsdek is dangerous by the context, especially in the plot and the way that they behave around him. Similarly, I think this passage:

Krygan had remarked in the past as to how disturbing it was to see his beloved pet approach her and seek gentle affection from the girl. Even now Marsdek chirped his contentment as she crouched down and smiled.

could be trimmed to "Marsdek chirped as she crouched down and smiled" without losing much. The phrase "and seek gentle affection from the girl" sounds oddly like it's been translated, too. Could it say "looking for affection" instead? The way the characters speak reminds me of the formal, "epic", way fantasy characters sometimes talk ("Do not" for "don't" and so on), and I think that if they are going to talk like this, the surrounding prose needs to flow a bit smoother to give it more of a contrast.

I hope that makes sense and helps!
 

ErikB

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Other people are better placed than me to go through the passage in detail, particularly with regard to point of view.

However, my main negative criticism would be that there is a slightly awkwardness that runs through some of the text, partly because I think you are trying to force descriptions in where they don't quite fit. For instance, this sentence:



feels as if it is there as much to tell the reader that Marsdek is very dangerous as to say what's happening. But it feels forced into the sentence to me. It's like saying "the blue-eyed man" to describe someone where "Dave" would do, because you're trying to tell the reader that Dave's eyes are blue. I think the reader would realise that Marsdek is dangerous by the context, especially in the plot and the way that they behave around him. Similarly, I think this passage:



could be trimmed to "Marsdek chirped as she crouched down and smiled" without losing much. The phrase "and seek gentle affection from the girl" sounds oddly like it's been translated, too. Could it say "looking for affection" instead? The way the characters speak reminds me of the formal, "epic", way fantasy characters sometimes talk ("Do not" for "don't" and so on), and I think that if they are going to talk like this, the surrounding prose needs to flow a bit smoother to give it more of a contrast.

I hope that makes sense and helps!

Thank you! Those are both excellent observations. I will absolutely revise that. I think you are spot on.

Much appreciated. I'm glad also that you pointed out what you meant by "forced" in the context of the subject. Very grateful for your input!

Cheers!
 

The Judge

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I don't know if you've looked through other threads in Critiques. If you have you'll see that one of the most common issues is info-dumping. I've now done a long post about it in The Toolbox (a thread which might be of interest to you anyway).

As I say there, info-dumping also includes excessive world-building detail, such as you've given in this excerpt. Frankly -- and obviously this is without knowing whether anything sown in these scenes will be needed later -- there is very little here which to me passes the iceberg test I've described in my Toolbox post, not even the stuff about their eyes. You may revel in the knowledge of how the eye colour changes by seniority or emotion, but unless it's actively a plot point, it isn't vital. It might well be helpful and interesting, but, and again being brutally honest, the way it's set out here isn't.

If you want information out there because it is needed or gives texture to the story, then to my mind you have got to come up with better methods of giving it. I've given some routes in my Toolbox thread which might suggest ways forward.

The info-dumping is, to me at least, aggravated by all the new-coined words you've dumped on us. Some of these words might have cropped up in earlier chapters, so the problem could well be lessened for someone reading the whole thing, but coming at it cold here, to me it's overkill. Yes, this isn't Earth, so these aren't Earth flowers or Earth creatures, so they will have strange names, but in that case I'd suggest never more than one a scene -- preferably no more than one every two or three chapters -- and I'd restrict them to ones that will be important. I'm usually all for using specifics rather then generics, but "songbirds" or "poultry" (whichever is appropriate, naturally) would be easier than "mygath" unless these birds are a plot point; just "orchids" rather than "tulan orchid flowers" (which appears to be bordering on tautology anyway). By overwhelming the reader with all these strange words you're not immersing her in your world, you're making the writing feel even more cluttered -- this is the literary equivalent of an overstuffed Victorian sitting room. Some readers may like Victoriana, but antimacassars are unlikely to be making a comeback any time soon, and while I wouldn't advocate total (boring!) minimalism, I do think some half-way point -- perhaps something more Scandi-chic! -- might be in order.

The issue of POV has been raised, so I won't repeat that, save to say I sympathise. Before I came here I wrote as I had read, which meant I used a kind of ******* omniscient, and it had to be flayed out of me by a member who shall remain nameless (but who has bunny ears). I've had to teach myself to write in very close third, which means not allowing anything into the scene which the POV character can't see, and filtering all information through her senses and experience.

I will just echo Toby's comments on your writing, though, and in fact I'd go further than he has done, since he's a gentleman and I'm not. Everything here is very stiff and awkward, as if you think you have to write in some grandiose authorly style -- Victoriana again to my eyes. And the dialogue reads at times as pastiche, rendering the characters flat and uninteresting. As to which, characterisation appears to me to be verging on caricature -- the baddies appear wholly bad, the goodie seems an angel. Obviously, you can't show every nuance of every character inside 1500 words, but I do think you could remove the excesses.

Overall, to my mind you could reduce these two/three scenes by a good 75% or more without adversely affecting the plot or worldbuilding. Pawgwyn enters (and I'd write it in her POV, so you can get across her jealousy), gives the orders briskly, then a second scene from Ylloria's POV where she is given the counter-instructions and goes into the garden, pets the animal and meets Krygan -- but only include the counter-instructions if it's an important plot point, otherwise have her go straight outside. Actually, unless the plot hinges on the earlier scenes, I'd be tempted to have her go straight outside anyway as the chapter opens -- with a "Lady Pawgwyn said you wished to see me, my lord" to give us background -- because at the moment nothing vital appears to happen in them.

Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic. Good luck with it anyway.
 

ErikB

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I don't know if you've looked through other threads in Critiques. If you have you'll see that one of the most common issues is info-dumping. I've now done a long post about it in The Toolbox (a thread which might be of interest to you anyway).

As I say there, info-dumping also includes excessive world-building detail, such as you've given in this excerpt. Frankly -- and obviously this is without knowing whether anything sown in these scenes will be needed later -- there is very little here which to me passes the iceberg test I've described in my Toolbox post, not even the stuff about their eyes. You may revel in the knowledge of how the eye colour changes by seniority or emotion, but unless it's actively a plot point, it isn't vital. It might well be helpful and interesting, but, and again being brutally honest, the way it's set out here isn't.

If you want information out there because it is needed or gives texture to the story, then to my mind you have got to come up with better methods of giving it. I've given some routes in my Toolbox thread which might suggest ways forward.

The info-dumping is, to me at least, aggravated by all the new-coined words you've dumped on us. Some of these words might have cropped up in earlier chapters, so the problem could well be lessened for someone reading the whole thing, but coming at it cold here, to me it's overkill. Yes, this isn't Earth, so these aren't Earth flowers or Earth creatures, so they will have strange names, but in that case I'd suggest never more than one a scene -- preferably no more than one every two or three chapters -- and I'd restrict them to ones that will be important. I'm usually all for using specifics rather then generics, but "songbirds" or "poultry" (whichever is appropriate, naturally) would be easier than "mygath" unless these birds are a plot point; just "orchids" rather than "tulan orchid flowers" (which appears to be bordering on tautology anyway). By overwhelming the reader with all these strange words you're not immersing her in your world, you're making the writing feel even more cluttered -- this is the literary equivalent of an overstuffed Victorian sitting room. Some readers may like Victoriana, but antimacassars are unlikely to be making a comeback any time soon, and while I wouldn't advocate total (boring!) minimalism, I do think some half-way point -- perhaps something more Scandi-chic! -- might be in order.

The issue of POV has been raised, so I won't repeat that, save to say I sympathise. Before I came here I wrote as I had read, which meant I used a kind of ******* omniscient, and it had to be flayed out of me by a member who shall remain nameless (but who has bunny ears). I've had to teach myself to write in very close third, which means not allowing anything into the scene which the POV character can't see, and filtering all information through her senses and experience.

I will just echo Toby's comments on your writing, though, and in fact I'd go further than he has done, since he's a gentleman and I'm not. Everything here is very stiff and awkward, as if you think you have to write in some grandiose authorly style -- Victoriana again to my eyes. And the dialogue reads at times as pastiche, rendering the characters flat and uninteresting. As to which, characterisation appears to me to be verging on caricature -- the baddies appear wholly bad, the goodie seems an angel. Obviously, you can't show every nuance of every character inside 1500 words, but I do think you could remove the excesses.

Overall, to my mind you could reduce these two/three scenes by a good 75% or more without adversely affecting the plot or worldbuilding. Pawgwyn enters (and I'd write it in her POV, so you can get across her jealousy), gives the orders briskly, then a second scene from Ylloria's POV where she is given the counter-instructions and goes into the garden, pets the animal and meets Krygan -- but only include the counter-instructions if it's an important plot point, otherwise have her go straight outside. Actually, unless the plot hinges on the earlier scenes, I'd be tempted to have her go straight outside anyway as the chapter opens -- with a "Lady Pawgwyn said you wished to see me, my lord" to give us background -- because at the moment nothing vital appears to happen in them.

Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic. Good luck with it anyway.

Thank you for taking the time to explain all that and for your suggestions. I will be looking at the content more closely and do some revision of my info dumps.

Painting a rich and interesting world for my reader is important. Also my book has an emphasis on the biodiversity of the planet not just as "fluff" to say "Hey check out how cool and pretty my alien world is." Rather some descriptions are used to place an emphasis on the culture of the aliens themselves.

This is a vast planet that has great tracts left untouched. Wild and non industrialized not because the ultach cannot build more, but because they view the ecosystems as vital to their own well being in spite of being very high tech.

It also comes strongly into focus as a major plot point by book four of the series.

I am not debating your points, simply sharing why I had approached the writing the way that I did.

I will streamline it in rewrites. I am extremely grateful for your suggestion and advice. I followed the link and read the toolbox information. I will check out the thread in greater depth as well.

Thank you for that.

I have read books by good writers that have at times driven me mad with descriptions and info dumps to where you skip ahead a few paragraphs or even pages to get past what seems like unneeded drivel.

I don't want to bog down my readers. Nor do I want them to be lacking an understanding of what it is that they are reading. I have a very comprehensive world set up. A global map, wildlife and plant life outlined, aliens and language outlined. Even rudimentary creation of language, script, phonetics etc.

Not with plans of infusing them into each book, but to have them ready if needed as tools. And as much as it may sound like I've been sharing a lot of descriptions, believe me when I say that I have not only held back, but that most of the story moves forward at a rapid pace.

I am ever mindful of the flow of the plot points and characters.

Thanks again. I will take all of your feedback and suggestions to heart. I am grateful for your critique and even that little bit of doubt at the end with your lack of enthusiasm. I take this as an opportunity to do better. Perhaps give you a small touch of hope in the story and its delivery.

Cheers!
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
We all have worlds like you describe - the writer must know that level of detail. But the reader does not. They need to know the story. You've had crits by 4 experienced critters - 2 of whom are published authors - all of whom say the same thing. It may not be what you want to hear - I know that pain - but when every single critter jumps up and down to say your description feels false and takes them out of the story, I'd listen and see if I could learn the skill of showing your rich world and keeping the reader more engaged - before I published. Otherwise, why ask for critiques?
 

JoanDrake

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I liked this. It's a very animal oriented story from your intro and I especially like the way we started right out with the detailed descriptions of the birds. Cultures that regard animals as important are usually birdwatchers, birds are probably the only truly wild animals we can readily observe and their appearances are one of the two most distinctive things about them, so this is good to establish the character of the culture

I found it a little hard to follow who was Pangwyn and who was Ylloria

Your description of Marsdek was the best part of the whole thing. You do a good job of characterizing an animal, which is always difficult
 

ErikB

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We all have worlds like you describe - the writer must know that level of detail. But the reader does not. They need to know the story. You've had crits by 4 experienced critters - 2 of whom are published authors - all of whom say the same thing. It may not be what you want to hear - I know that pain - but when every single critter jumps up and down to say your description feels false and takes them out of the story, I'd listen and see if I could learn the skill of showing your rich world and keeping the reader more engaged - before I published. Otherwise, why ask for critiques?

Actually I am taking all of what has been shared to heart. I think perhaps you are mistaking my sharing of a thought process with being defensive or unwilling to follow recommendations.

Quite the opposite. Each critique has helped me immensely. I am very pleased to understand where the weak points of my writing are and I hope that I am not coming off as unreceptive.

If so I must apologize for that perception. But I assure you I have been nodding, smiling, taking notes, and reading and evaluating with each thread contribution.

I may be passionate about my story, but I know that there is always room for improvement.

Cheers! :)
 

ErikB

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I liked this. It's a very animal oriented story from your intro and I especially like the way we started right out with the detailed descriptions of the birds. Cultures that regard animals as important are usually birdwatchers, birds are probably the only truly wild animals we can readily observe and their appearances are one of the two most distinctive things about them, so this is good to establish the character of the culture

I found it a little hard to follow who was Pangwyn and who was Ylloria

Your description of Marsdek was the best part of the whole thing. You do a good job of characterizing an animal, which is always difficult

Thank you Joan. The wildlife of the world play an intrigral part in the story. This is a planet the size of Saturn (roughly) with a large amount left intentionally wild because the alien culture in the story sees their planet's ecosystems as important to their own survival and well being.

The book opens with Krygan collecting a few hundred humans from a small planet that he and his ship commander find in disgusting shape. Littered with satellites and polluted. They deem the humans as filthy and simple minded simply because of the lack of respect for their overpopulated world.

Ylloria is a servant of Krygan Vack's.She is half ultach and half of a rival species from another world. They are called vanac. As a half breed she is looked down upon by ultach and in truth is not much more than a "pet" herself.

While Pawgwyn is an ulanari (female ultach) serving as an entertainer/concubine for certain visiting guests and dignitaries. She has many female servants under her that serve in similar capacities. And this includes Ylloria.

I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

Cheers!
 

JoanDrake

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Size of Saturn, like Robert Silverberg's Majipoor? Very nice idea, allows you to have really BIG features, rivers that dwarf the Amazon, etc, Silverberg has the planet metal poor so the gravity doesn't become overbearing but you may use different. (I have seen a fast rotation used to reduce gravity too but am not really sure it would work)
 

Martin Robert

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There's so many references to creatures and breeds of what-not, that I'm having a really hard time understanding what's going on. When coupled with the awkwardness mentioned above, it's a little rough. Distracting from the more important stuff perhaps?

Shouldn't some of these be proper names and as such, get capitalized? Like "donadar" in “As you wish master donadar. Good day to you sir.”?
 

ErikB

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There's so many references to creatures and breeds of what-not, that I'm having a really hard time understanding what's going on. When coupled with the awkwardness mentioned above, it's a little rough. Distracting from the more important stuff perhaps?

Shouldn't some of these be proper names and as such, get capitalized? Like "donadar" in “As you wish master donadar. Good day to you sir.”?

Donadar is a title like a military commander, a scientist, etc. If it is referenced in front of the name then it is capitalized. For example;

"Greetings Donadar Q-Iythe."

However you can also say;

"His donadar did not seem to agree on the issue."

It's like using the word "General" as a title specific to someone, or just in general. (Word play unintentional).

I appreciate your sharing this observations. I think that the original observation by the staff members that starting a critique from a middle chapter is not such a good idea as elements that a reader would be familiar with by the third or fourth chapter of a book can lose someone making an assessment based on a tiny bit of story without context.

Thank you for affirming this. I will not only be taking the suggestions to heart ( in fact a clearer and more condensed rewrite in in progress) but I will keep critique queries small and stick with opening chapter excerpts in the future.

Cheers and thanks for taking the time to have a look.
 
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