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calpollion
January 6th, 2014, 10:43 AM
This is the first few paragraphs of my fantasy novel, introducing Aidan, Will, and the city of Lichenmark. Any feedback is welcome.


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...CHAPTER ONE...
THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE



‘Your turn,’ said Will, looking out at the calm, shimmering water as it gently swayed towards him, then drifting back when it came close to touching his legs. The two teenagers had been sitting at the lakeside since sunrise, casually throwing rocks into the murky depths, with each one disappearing under the shiny veil with a splosh. The surroundings were as tranquil as ever, and the two boys were making the most of the light breezes and warm days of the rare South-Lichenforre summer. The pair of them had been considering going over to the capitol city of Lichenmark for a day, for it was a mere fifteen minute journey at a walk. But their mothers had made them promise not to stray too far from their estate before the men came home from the factory.
‘Well, go on!’ he urged, picking up the nearest stone and tossing it to the boy sat next to him, lazily examining the ripples in the lake. Aidan Holloway plucked the grey rock from the ground in front of him and held it flat in his palm. He looked back out to the water as a cluster of leaves gracefully glided past. The sun was high in the sky, the blistering heat of the month of Zenith emanating down onto him. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his free hand and diverted his attention back to his and Will’s bet. They had been taking it in turns for the past hour now, trying to hit the bell that rose out of the water with any nearby stones, bits of bark and even a few coins. Aidan had lost track of time when he dropped his projectile and opted to fling a handful of pebbles through the air, so as to hit the bell with a scatter effect. A dong rang across the lake as about four of them struck the brass together.
‘Come on Aidan,’ Will groaned. ‘Don’t cheat. It’s no fun when you do that.’
‘It’s no fun at all now,’ he complained, collapsing back onto the shore and looking up to the sky. The sun was at its peak now, and the dark veil of smoke – a result of his father’s labour, no doubt – would be creeping over their heads soon enough. Then the sun would be gone for a few hours, and Aidan would go inside and sleep, hoping that the rest would deal with his fever. ‘I’m going home. You coming?’
Will looked back to the lake, back to him, and then back to the lake. ‘Gimme a minute…’
Aidan sighed and turned back for his house – a modest thing sitting alongside the rising shoreline. In the morning, he liked to make his way down to the water and lay there for the few minutes he had before leaving for school. And in those moments, he would forget about Mrs Perkins – his hag of a history teacher. His hatred for Lewis – the ape he called a classmate – would disappear. The countless exams he would be taking in the coming years would become nothing but a distant dream. And then he would be brought away from that ignorant bliss, and dragged back into the stressful hell that was Saint Frederick’s Secondary School.
The smoke from the factories drifted nearer now, dark tendrils snaking across a clear blue sky, like coal flowing through water. As he looked up, his eyes stopped over Lichenmark. Many would talk of the capital city, boasting of its size, its strength and its industry. But none ever came close to the real thing. Up close, on a clear summer’s day, was the only way to see the hulking mass of stone and steel. Smokestacks towered above tightly packed buildings of wood and stone, feeding the sky with its black refuse. The Houses of Parliament stood in the centre, overlooking its lesser fellows. No doubt the Arch Lord was in there now, thinking of his next best way to denounce Aidan’s generation, to lessen their worth just that little bit more. Thick walls of cobblestone held Lichenmark in a tight embrace, completing the largest city this world had ever seen. On a clear and quiet day, Aidan could sometimes hear the clang of metalwork, the murmur of the city folk, and, rarely, the whoosh of a car. But no such excitement came from the capitol today. Today, she was next to silent.
Gravel crunched under his feet as he sauntered down the path of Eden Park, and a crow cawed to him from his rooftop, its illegible taunts carrying through the air. He heard the same crunch a few metres behind him, and he knew that Will was coming along.

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Douglas
January 6th, 2014, 05:19 PM
Hi Calpollion,

I am new to critiquing others work. I can give you my impressions and maybe a few constructive comments and leave the rest to the professionals on this forum.

I found the 'first few paragraphs' enjoyable, well written and highly descriptive. You paint a picture with names and observations that fit into a world of the Industrial Revolution, was this your intent? It does not grip me immediately with fast action and intrigue yet this is the early stage of the chapter where you are creating a world feel and atmosphere.

I picked up on a minor word problem 'the capitol city of Lichenmark', should it be 'capital'?

Overall very promising and I look forward to reading your future work.

Kind regards,
Douglas

calpollion
January 6th, 2014, 06:28 PM
Hi Calpollion,

I am new to critiquing others work. I can give you my impressions and maybe a few constructive comments and leave the rest to the professionals on this forum.

I found the 'first few paragraphs' enjoyable, well written and highly descriptive. You paint a picture with names and observations that fit into a world of the Industrial Revolution, was this your intent? It does not grip me immediately with fast action and intrigue yet this is the early stage of the chapter where you are creating a world feel and atmosphere.

I picked up on a minor word problem 'the capitol city of Lichenmark', should it be 'capital'?

Overall very promising and I look forward to reading your future work.

Kind regards,
Douglas

Thanks Douglas (can I call you Douglas? :P)

I'm glad you enjoyed it, and yeah capitol/capital are two words I confuse every now and again. I was in fact going for a Victorian England-inspired setting, so I'm really happy that put itself across, and the slow start is intentional. I felt as though the setting and tone of the story called for a subtle beginning instead of a fast-paced action sequence (though I love doing those too).
Thank you for the compliments and the constructive criticism. I hope I can read something of yours in the near future.

calpollion
January 6th, 2014, 06:45 PM
I apologise for the mess-up in the title. Didn't notice that mistake.

grayfin
January 13th, 2014, 08:11 PM
Showing over telling wins every time. What I mean by showing is you want to imply mostly and hardly ever straight out tell your readers things. For an example in your work the sentence
"The two teenagers had been sitting at the lakeside since sunrise, casually throwing rocks into the murky depths, with each one disappearing under the shiny veil with a splosh."
Perfectly explains what it says but thin you go on with this
"‘Well, go on!’ he urged, picking up the nearest stone and tossing it to the boy sat next to him, lazily examining the ripples in the lake."


Where the first sentence tells that they were sitting next to the lake(which again should be implied through your characters actions, thoughts or dialogue) most of the second sentence is not needed at all because it becomes redundant.


As an example of "implied through your characters actions, thoughts or dialogue"
you could for instance have had one of the two characters get up from sitting next of said lakeside and proclaimed that he was bored and wish to go back to the capital since they been doing it all day.
Readers can get bored very quickly and most of the time do not wish to read things that are long-winded and redundant. With that being said so far I like the imagery and the overall theme of the story. keep up the good work.

thepancreas11
January 15th, 2014, 12:24 AM
I'm getting a steampunk feel, which I enjoy. If you were going for Victorian England, then job well done! The beginning is quite captivating with very little action, a testament to your writing style. Good writing doesn't need action all the time; sometimes it need to be familiar or relatable, both of which I find in reading that opening section.

I would warn you against too much information, but grayfin has done that nicely. It's okay to keep certain element, such as the description of the far-off city (which I love), but why include the bit about the teacher and the classmate? Why not bring that up when you need it? Don't give too much away, or we're basically reading cliff-notes.

Please proof-read your work too. You do yourself a disservice by missing words. It's probably best to read your piece several times over anyways. It will both eliminate errors and get you solidly entrenched in the world you're creating.

Write on! You're very good at it.

Zeynith
February 20th, 2014, 09:28 AM
You really did a great job with the descriptions. Loved the little touch of detail with the crow. I was a bit confused about the boys ages. It said teens but the from the dialog and what they were doing they came off being on the young end to me. I also thought the part where he likes to just go lay by the water and forget his troubles and then just listing off what they were seemed kind of out of place. Overall really good though. Look forward to seeing more.

stormageddon
February 20th, 2014, 10:56 AM
The writing is good, very good in fact, and it sounds like my cup of tea. The adjectives you use and even some of the verbs (drifting smoke) have a tendency to be a little cliched, but I say that as a hypocrite and in the knowledge that unfortunately, there are only so many ways of describing water etc and so a certain amount of cliche is unavoidable. You might try the use of figurative language to get around this, but with that comes the danger of embarrassment- I am sure you have read a plethora of awkward similes and metaphors in your time on earth and there is little worse. So, unless you can think of adequate ones, you are better sticking with the cliched adjectives. But if you're good at them, and you may well be, throw them in wherever they fit.
There is little else to comment on (apart from the things you have done well, which are too numerous to mention), except in the first sentence: " then drifting back when it came close to touching his legs" should begin with "then drifted", however "then" is a word whose placement there I feel is unnecessary, and with a slight alteration of phrasing could be avoided entirely, which would make for a more polished sentence. I'm not sure if it's just my personal preference or one of the unwritten rules of writing, but I feel that words like then and when should be used sparingly, and avoided wherever possible (unless their avoidance disrupts the flow of your narrative).
The last thing I would like to point out is that here "a crow cawed to him from his rooftop, its illegible taunts carrying through the air" you have misused the word illegible. Writing can be illegible, but sounds cannot. You might consider a replacement such as "unintelligible", "incomprehensible" or "incoherent".
A few improvements to make, but on the whole a great piece of writing :)

calpollion
February 23rd, 2014, 12:23 AM
The writing is good, very good in fact, and it sounds like my cup of tea. The adjectives you use and even some of the verbs (drifting smoke) have a tendency to be a little cliched, but I say that as a hypocrite and in the knowledge that unfortunately, there are only so many ways of describing water etc and so a certain amount of cliche is unavoidable. You might try the use of figurative language to get around this, but with that comes the danger of embarrassment- I am sure you have read a plethora of awkward similes and metaphors in your time on earth and there is little worse. So, unless you can think of adequate ones, you are better sticking with the cliched adjectives. But if you're good at them, and you may well be, throw them in wherever they fit.
There is little else to comment on (apart from the things you have done well, which are too numerous to mention), except in the first sentence: " then drifting back when it came close to touching his legs" should begin with "then drifted", however "then" is a word whose placement there I feel is unnecessary, and with a slight alteration of phrasing could be avoided entirely, which would make for a more polished sentence. I'm not sure if it's just my personal preference or one of the unwritten rules of writing, but I feel that words like then and when should be used sparingly, and avoided wherever possible (unless their avoidance disrupts the flow of your narrative).
The last thing I would like to point out is that here "a crow cawed to him from his rooftop, its illegible taunts carrying through the air" you have misused the word illegible. Writing can be illegible, but sounds cannot. You might consider a replacement such as "unintelligible", "incomprehensible" or "incoherent".
A few improvements to make, but on the whole a great piece of writing :)

:3 Thank you. I've been on hiatus for a bit and this has encouraged me to get writing once more. I'll definitely take what you said into account.

calpollion
February 23rd, 2014, 12:25 AM
You really did a great job with the descriptions. Loved the little touch of detail with the crow. I was a bit confused about the boys ages. It said teens but the from the dialog and what they were doing they came off being on the young end to me.

:3 Thanks for the compliment, particularly with the crow. I was wondering if that would be a good touch, hinting to later in the story, and this has helped me decide to keep it. However, I'm slightly confused with what you mean by "the young end." Do you mean they seem younger than teenagers? For reference, the MC is one day away from turning 13 at this point.

Zeynith
February 23rd, 2014, 01:44 AM
Teen generally means between 13-19, from the way they were acting they seemed to be closer to 13 but I wasn't sure if that was the intent. But if the main character is 12 then you did a good job :P

Riptide
February 23rd, 2014, 01:47 AM
Yeah, Zey was write. I thought it was weird dialogue for a teen. Maybe say pre-teen?