ASSUMPTIONS, Part 1The last thing I remembered was hearing the limb crack and feeling it give way under me. The fall had to have been at least 20 feet, but I’m not dead, so that’s a pleasant surprise. Every part of me hurts, especially my leg. It must be night, for everything is pitch black. Starting to sit up, I feel a firm but gentle pressure on my chest. It feels like a hand but also feels too big to be one. “Do not move, Child of Eve, you will aggravate your injuries.” said a voice with a rasp like gravel in a bucket and a rumble like distant thunder. When I stopped moving the pressure slackened.
Vision: I get that the main character is blind, and that is why this piece is so dialogue heavy. However, there are other senses. What about the smells? What about sense of touch? What other sounds can the p.o.v. character hear besides Last of Twelve's voice?
There simply isn't enough exposition. The point of the beginning of a story is to hook the reader and introduce the p.o.v. character. I don't really feel introduced at all. I don't know anything about him except that he took a fall, was rescued by a strange being, and lives in some vague, nondescript fantasy world; he tells us his personal history but not how he feels about it. Even when he explains "probably as an extra son in case anything happened to the eldest" he says it so matter of factly that I can't tell whether he resents his parents for it, or if he's OK with it, or what. When it comes to hooking the reader, you want to introduce some mystique, mystery, or foreshadowing about the events of the future. I don't really feel intrigued at all.
The whole thing feels a bit cliche, too--I feel like I've read this story before, many times over.
The dialogue is very stiff. It doesn't really read the way real people speak. There's even a huge info dump, and much of what the characters are saying seem to benefit the reader more than the characters. Who they are doesn't show much through their dialogue, either. Why is Mang interested in hearing Willum's life story?
(Also, a side note: "Mang" is a slang word often used by Hispanics, meaning "man"--so instead of saying "what's up man" they say "S'up mang?" It might be better to pick a name that doesn't remind people of a silly slang dialect.)
When real people speak, they generally don't answer others' questions directly. They respond based on emotion more than anything else, and their words should be tinted with their personal biases and opinions. I feel like these two are practically robots, being so matter of fact and unemotional and and with no opinions. Willum tells his whole life story to a stranger like it's no big deal. He doesn't even do it proudly or ashamedly or anything, so I can't tell his own opinion of his past.
Originality: Again, I feel like I've read this work before. While the trappings may be new, many fantasy stories begin with the main character waking up. Also, there isn't very much in this story. I'm not going to rate the originality of the trappings--they don't matter unless they actually have a discernible purpose. Until then, a lamp is just a lamp, and Willum's info-dumped backstory is just a backstory. You haven't given any of this stuff a context yet. I'm left wondering, what are you writing about?
Technique: Not enough exposition. Almost completely ignored the other senses. Flavorless--no real imagery, no notable metaphors or similes. Willum and Mang don't really have any personality either, at least, none that is apparent in the text.
Impact: All in all, I haven't learned much from this. You haven't given me a reason to care about Willum or Mang's characters. What do they want? Why is the story starting here? Who are they, really? There's no conflict and no hint of conflict, no mystique, no mystery to solve.
Thanks for the feedback, I'll read through your work later today and let you know what I think.
I've spent the last 40 odd years writing technical/medical pieces and got into the habit of sticking to that which was relative to the paper. Willum's use of his other sense's wouldn't have, in my thought process, advanced the story so I left them out. All I wanted the reader to have was a voice, for the time being.
I do explain, a bit farther on, that Willum really doesn't have much of an opinion of his family outside of he's thankful they did send him off, saved his life in the long run.
I suppose it does read a bit cliche, there's so much fantasy/sci fi out there I was bound to have overlapped someone else's work.
Actually, most of the people I know, myself included, talk the way I write. Having been a psychiatrist for 35 years I speak exactly what's on my mind, bleeds over into my writing. Being dialogue centric I needed to put a lot of info into what was being said. My intent was to have Mang speak a bit stiffly, learning a language as you go along makes for being a bit formal if not outright stiff.
As far as "Mang" being hispanic slang, I have zero working knowledge of that. Mang Gaawn is Thai for dragon, so I just shortened it up a bit.
Willum's been wandering his world for 35 years, been through Hell and High Water and really doesn't have any advantage is not answering directly. If Mang had meant any harm, he'd already be dead, so what's to lose being frank?
On your Originality and Technique categories, do keep reading it all gets pretty clear starting in Part 2.
If there's a way to put "War and Peace" in the first 3 pages, I'd greatly appreciate knowing how to do that. Personally, I give a book (any book) the first 50 pages before I make a decision about reading the rest of it.
Thanks again for your time and feedback, I will read your work as soon as I get back from some running around I have to do today.
It makes sense that you've spent so much time writing technical writing, that's sort of how your story comes off.
What's the point of telling us about his family if he doesn't have an opinion on them? It doesn't reveal a bit of his character.
You can't think of a way to advance the story using the other senses? Of course this is very possible. Spend some more time thinking about it, I'm sure it will come to you. Read some novels where the main character is blind, see how other writers do it.
I'm also the sort of person who speaks exactly whats on her mind, and I'm quite matter of fact, and very literal. However, this is the exception, and not the rule.
Overlapping others' work isn't so much a problem if you can bring a fresh perspective to it or otherwise make it interesting. Some people don't believe there's such a thing as an original piece of writing at all. It's only stale if you use it for no discernible purpose or if the perspective is the same as ever.
There's being frank, and then there's telling your whole life story without managing to say anything of substance about yourself.
Mang may not have killed him, that's true, but that's not reason enough to just tell someone your life story when they asked. More likely, a person would respond by saying something like, "Why do you want to know?" Or "Will knowing this help you heal me?" Or "That's a rather direct and personal thing to ask a stranger. Not from around here, are you?" Or anything else. Some people might even lie about who they are in order to appear better than they are or hide a shameful secret.
Why does Mang even ask him in the first place?
I shouldn't have to ask the author these questions, the story should speak for itself. Use subtlety. A story is more than a series of events. A character is more than the person experiencing those events; especially the main p.o.v. character. They're the tinted lens through which the reader sees the world, they should have opinions, thoughts, desires, and motivations immediately.
Have you read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy? He does it quite splendidly. If war and peace are your themes, why haven't you started your story in a different place? Why like this? Is the conversation between them so important, the words in the dialogue so important to the theme of the story--or would nothing change if you glazed the whole thing over in two paragraphs of exposition?
You're very generous to read 50 pages. However, you need to think about what other readers do, not what you do. Most people, I think, don't read past the first few paragraphs if they're not hooked.
Do you write for fun or do you intend to publish?