Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by solsword » September 12th, 2009, 3:54 am

I actually that the first chapter makes a very good introduction to a children's book: the exposition is painfully direct and lacks the complicated phrasing of more intellectual prose. Sentences are mostly limited to a single clause, and besides some embellishments, like "Gigantic Wall of Metal", it's mostly sensible and simple English. It sounds like it could make a good children's book, too.

The other bits that you've posted don't hold up when viewed in this light, however. For one thing, they give much more detailed descriptions of violence than a children's book would, and even in another context, I feel like the focus on violence detracts from the story. A good example:
Zigg wrote: Those who weren't in the group were tracked and eaten, or burnt by well-aimed blasts of fire.
Here it doesn't particularly matter how they died, in terms of the plot. The extended description serves to give the overall story a more violent feel, but the awkward phrasing ("well-aimed" is basically an adjective there just to make it "cooler-sounding", but all that it does is make it sound juvenile) means that the story gets broken up. If you want long and detailed descriptions of gore, you have to do two things:

First, you've got to give the reader a reason to care about those involved. The people who are dying here have had what, a couple of sentences devoted to describing their entire village? At this point, any normal reader would expect them to die off like flies, because the reader doesn't have any connection with them, not to mention that you've clearly set them up to die. Thus, for the reader, descriptions of how they die or their individual fates are just boring and pointless. The reader has already distanced themselves emotionally in preparation for these people's inevitable death. If you had a paragraph or two that started explaining the daily lives of the people, their hopes and fears, and the good parts of their characters, the reader would be drawn in. Then, if you suddenly changed to a description of these people being torn limb from limb by a dragon, the reader would be horrified and sympathetic, and would pay close attention to even a long-winded description of their deaths.

Second, you've got to meter your descriptions. You can't have detailed descriptions of many tiny events (like a shot being fired in the midst of battle), or even many detailed descriptions at all, without some more high-level text that justifies them. Imagine looking at a portrait where someone had painted a generic face and then added extremely beautiful details, but only in random places. Let's say that the left nostril was done really well, with cool shadowing, and the beard had a lot of good detail and texture, but the hair was kinda blurry and the eyes were pretty basic. As an overall picture, it wouldn't look good, because there's no smooth scaling between the extremes of detail and form, and because the distribution of detail is wonky. In your writing, try to describe things on a much higher level. For example, your Chapter 2 can be summarized by "there was a battle between dwarves and orcs". There are other important details (the dwarves were on their way to Knalga, they were a scout party, the dwarves had almost won when...) but these details get very little of the attention. I'd use at least two or three sentences to describe the dwarves in the beginning: were they tired? hungry? how many of them were there? where were they coming from? were they hardened veterans or green recruits? Next, I'd use a sentence just to state the fact that they were returning to Knalga (maybe say something about their route, or the weather, or give some other interesting tidbit of information that helps draw the reader in). Then I'd use an active sentence, like the one you used ("All of a sudden...") to introduce the orcs. Depending on what kind of flow I wanted, I'd next either take a sentence or two to describe the orcs, which would make the reader more relaxed about the outcome of the battle, or rush straight into *one or two* *compact* sentences about the fighting. Three sentences (one to spring the orcs, and two more to describe the state of battle) is enough to get the reader engaged, and make them a little excited. Suddenly the characters are in battle! What will happen? But if you drag this part on, the reader disengages. It becomes: "Yeah, sure they're in battle. I already got that part. What actually happens next?" Now, if the reader were already engaged enough to have hopes riding on the outcome of the battle, you could do a very lengthy description of the battle, although you'd have to switch between tactical descriptions of the progress of the battle and *short* descriptions of the actual melee itself. But with no reader engagement at this point, you can't do much more than establish that there is a battle before quickly moving on to *what happens* in the battle. In this case, the only events of significance are that the dwarves basically win, and then the orc leader leaps next to the dwarven leader. You can describe that in two sentences. Again, at this point, references to specific tactics, such as the miners clustering up, are overblown. The reader wants to know what is going to happen, and the dwarves aren't well-established enough for the reader to care about dwarven tactics. Use these lines when you've got some plot elements riding on the outcome of the story.

On a related note:
In general, character's can't really do anything "cool" in battle until they've gained some acceptance from the reader as a warrior with some prowess. Otherwise the scene comes out forced, because even though you as an author know how cool these characters are, the reader has no idea, and would rather get on to the part where ey actually gets to know the character, instead of listening to the awesome things that they can do. It's like meeting someone for the first time and handing them a "List of all of the Awesome things that I can do!" They'll naturally be skeptical, because they don't know whether you're boastful or not, and in general know nothing about you as a person. In fact, acting like that would come off as more than a little bit rude, in many cases.


Alright, that was long, and rambled a bit. The TL;DR summary:

Be less descriptive and give the reader more connection to the characters and events.

One simple rule to add to that:

Your character's aren't allowed to be awesome (or really to have much description of their actions at all) until your reader *cares*.

And finally a disclaimer: I'm not an author. I've never written good fantasy. I've read a lot of it, and I can write other things (like technical papers), but I do feel like I may have overstepped my station with this critique. It's not that I don't believe what I'm saying is true, I just worry that I've missed something due to my inexperience as an author. Maybe my reader-only perspective is missing something. So in fact, I'd really appreciate it if other more authory-people could give me feedback on my feedback. Are my points valid, or am I just rambling on about things that don't really matter?

For what it's worth, I'd love to see you write the whole thing like the first section and make it into a children's book. An easy way to help maintain that style (although it's not a magic bullet) is to never use a sentence with more than two clauses, and only use two-clause sentences sparingly.
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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » September 12th, 2009, 5:33 pm

Major edits and updates!

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by solsword » September 12th, 2009, 6:59 pm

EDIT: Silly quote tags :(

Good job! You've fixed (I think) all of your capitalization errors. You've also improved the prose quite a bit. The first section no longer reads like a storybook (which is a bit disappointing to me :lol2: ) and is better than it was before.

On the other hand, you still have a bunch of awkward phrases and grammatical mistakes in there. You also ignored my advice a bit, (not saying that you *must* follow it like an iron law, just that your work still suffers from some of the same problems pointed out in my previous post) especially in the battle section.

I won't take the time to point out *every* mistake, because honestly, there are quite a few... do you have anyone who can copy-edit this work? Having a pair of eyes other than the author's look over the work is always a good idea when it comes to writing, and *in general* forum members may or may not have the time to do a full copy-edit of your work.

So, a short list of *some* of the mistakes:
Zigg wrote: For years the village flourished, and became a great city within seventeen years of it's construction, the kingdom's record.
This is another instance of trying to be too cool. Sure, it's pretty awesome that the city is in some sense the best in the kingdom. But it's not really believable, especially for a city that you've put in a backwater region (if it's up in the mountains and not specifically on some major pass or other trade route, it's pretty much going to be a backwater). Sure, through trade it might eventually become a city, but 17 years is ridiculously fast, especially considering the mountain setting and medieval construction technology. But more importantly, there's no reason that the city has to be the fastest-growing in the land, and so this comes across as you trying to hard to be cool. Instead of this up front, you would do better to include a sentence about the village growing *quickly* (specific times and numbers are often too much detail anyways) into a city maybe midway through your description of it. That way, by the time you try to have your city (character) do something awesome (be a really quickly-growing city), the reader already has some attachment to it.

As a side note, are you sure that you want it to be a *city*? If a dragon destroyed an entire *city*, that would probably take at least a week, due to the sheer size and number of people. Also, such an event would be history-changing for the entire kingdom, as one of its population centers would have been destroyed. You'd almost certainly see small (if not large) armies involved in hunting down the dragon (not to mention trying to fight it off in the first place). Which all makes it less believable that your small group of heroes can bring down the beast when most of a kingdom can't.

On the other hand, if you limit yourself to a "prosperous village", it's much more believable that the village was completely destroyed when the dragon attacked, and that the government response was to abandon it (unless your heroes are going to *be* the government response?).
Zigg wrote: The village was small and mostly houses and markets/shops for the first year or so, and just like any other village. For the next few years, ...
Your description here reads like one that a very dry historian or city planner would give, and it's not the kind of description that you'd get from either a more engaging historian or a person who was asked to describe a place that they knew. You basically just state using simple sentences what was going on, focusing almost exclusively on the buildings and the shopping, without any kind of narrative or flow. The way that you keep saying "and then during the next few years" really serves to make the reader feel like they're reading a historical list of dates (without the dates, which would at least be interesting and provide historical context). I did say that you should describe the place and what the people do, but you've got to do it more naturally. Read some parts of fantasy novels that describe places, and pay attention to what they say. The amount and kind of details that you can provide depend on how long your description is and how central the place is to your plot. Try to describe aspects of the place that give it character. In any city there will be shoppers, so that's uninteresting. However, if you gave a *colorful* 1- or 2- sentence description of the local main street, including what kind of people you'd find there, and what kind of attractions there would be, that would be interesting, and would help the reader suspend disbelief as ey imagines the scene. A good rule of thumb: read the sentence, and then imagine what is going on. Is what you're imagining interesting? Is what you're imagining derived from the contents of the sentence, or from what you've already imagined about the city when you made up the story?

Another note: markets/shops here is bad. It makes the text distinctively modern, which breaks the reader's rapport, because it reminds them that the text was written by a modern author. It's also completely redundant: either word sort-of implies the other.
Zigg wrote: This upset the people living there.
What? Why? You'll need to expand on this (although it seems like you might be planning to, given the disconnect between this part and the next).
Zigg wrote: ...slams for it's paws...
There are two mistakes here: first, the slams do not occur for the sake of its paws: they should be "slams from its paws", and second, the slams do not occur because "it is paws". Hence my "its" instead of "it's" in the previous correction. You repeat the it's/its mistake in several other places. Remember: Plurals: not really a big deal. Honestly, what is the fuss about? But a missing letter?! Crap, we'd better put an apostrophe *there*!

On a related note: if you remove *all* contractions from your work, in general it will wind up sounding more medieval, precisely because (AFAIK) people did not use contractions back then. Change can't to cannot and don't to do not, etc, and then listen to it again. You'll likely be pleasantly surprised.
Zigg wrote: The water spirits summoned by Mages were no match for the storm borne of pumping wings, for they were blown apart.
Here "for they" -> "and they": it's not that they were no match *because* they were blown apart (although I guess that's technically true, in a way), it's that they were no match *and therefore* (or just and) were blown apart.
Zigg wrote: All but one lady who had fled the instant it was sighted.
Really? All but *one*, out of an entire *city*? This is extremely cliche, and should be avoided. In any case, rag-tag bands of horrified survivors are more interesting.
Zigg wrote: That marked the fall of the Caves Of Gold into the dragon's reign, and the start of an epic quest.
"into the dragon's reign" is bad grammar. The caves could "fall to the dragon" (not its reign), they could "fall under the sway of the dragon" (although that would have silly connotations, because the dragon is really taking possession of them, not just swaying them), or they could simply "fall". You've made it abundantly clear that the dragon is the causal agent here.

Also, the epic quest (which describes the journeys of the heroes in this case) didn't actually start when the dragon destroyed the city. The *quest* can't really start until the heroes learn about the dragon, or at least until they set off for parts unknown. It could, however, be the start of an "epic tale."
Zigg wrote: There were 15 Miners, and 10 Guards, all lead by a captain who went by the name of Andruil.
15 and 10 are far too specific. Affixing details like these detracts from the immersion, because if a person saw the group, they wouldn't be able to immediately tell you exactly how many people there were. So if a person were naturally telling you about the group (lets say someone who had passed them on the road 5 minutes ago), they wouldn't be able to provide that information. When you're describing something, try to keep in mind the limitations of the human mind, in order to make your description natural. Here, the readers are meeting your dwarves for the first time. In that situation, what would a normal person pay attention to? What would they be *able* to pick out. Would they be able to tell which dwarves were miners or guards? This isn't an ironclad rule, but in general detail that goes beyond what someone would normally notice is going to throw the reader off a bit. Of course, things like the captain's name are acceptable, because they are *interesting* and *relevant*, not to mention the fact that they lend quite a bit of character to the group. Here, I'd just say "A group of about two-dozen guards and miners..." or "A group of about a dozen miners, with their number again in guards..." or something like that. Note how I've avoided exact numbers, and I've used "a dozen" instead of "ten", because it sounds more like an estimate you'd hear and it sounds *vaguely* medieval. I've also avoided giving two numbers, which suddenly turns it from an incidental piece of information into the focus of the sentence.

---

One other issue for consideration:
Zigg wrote: A small human village, belonging to a kingdom far from Wesnoth, was set up in the mountains.
If you're intending this story to eventually add to the lore of Wesnoth, you can't really set it in an intentionally non-Wesnoth-related place. If you're goal is to have the story be consistent with the rest of Weslore and to add to that body, you'll have to integrate it with the history and geography of Wesnoth, both subjects which have excellent wiki topics. Of course, if it's just a fan-fiction not intended to extend Wesnoth itself, you've done a good job with this sentence of clarifying that while set in Irdya, there's no actual relation to Wesnoth canon. Unfortunately, performing that disassociation in a single sentence without some other subtlety means that the first sentence *screams* "fan-fiction".

---

And finally: There are other mistakes which I haven't pointed out. Some are along these lines, others are bits that I mentioned in my previous post. Try hard to spot the places where you're trying to hard to be cool: those really make the story seem juvenile, and distract the reader.

But I do really like the improvements you made to it, and I hope that it will continue to improve as you keep editing it.
Last edited by solsword on September 17th, 2009, 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » September 13th, 2009, 8:12 pm

Major edits and updates!

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by solsword » September 13th, 2009, 8:35 pm

Well, you've fixed some things, but ignored others, and to a large degree it still suffers from the problems I pointed out in my first post. Most importantly:

You do not have nearly enough exposition of the dwarven characters before their first battle.

In order for the reader to enjoy the battle scene that you've written (which has some problems of its own), you need the readers to be engaged in the dwarven characters. I'd try to describe at least one or two full *days* of their journey, introducing the characters at the start and giving them some personality before putting them into battle. I'd probably use about as much text as Chapter 2 now uses in its entirety. This strategy would make the work into a much longer thing in the long run than it is now. If instead you want to keep the chapters as long as they are, then you're writing a fairly short story, which takes a *lot* of skill, because you still have to do the same things (introduce the characters, give them some personality, then have a battle), but you've got less space to do it in, and so you have to be really good with words.


But besides that main problem, there are various other issues, many of which I've already mentioned (as a small example, you still have an it's/its mistake in there).

Finally, as a convenience to readers, you should probably move all the text into the first post (separated by chapter headers: I do like the large font chapter header that lets me find the second chapter easily).

But all of that criticism isn't meant to discourage you: your edits did indeed improve some sections of it. However, errors are still *pervasive*. You're making progress, but you've got a long way to go :) .
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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » September 14th, 2009, 8:06 pm

Minor edits and updates!

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by thespaceinvader » September 14th, 2009, 8:22 pm

Better =) You seem to have done some research about the use of capitals. That is good. You could also stand to take a look at the usage of the word 'it's' versus 'its'. But enough grammar quibbling.

Overall, this reads a little sparsely. Even for a short story, you do a little too much in the way of description, and far too little in the way of characterisation and world building. A rule I've picked up from an excellent podcast is: 'show, don't tell'. Rather than giving us bare description of what happens in the village for instance, or what the protagonists' characters are like. Show us. Show it by writing characters interacting with one another. If you need to tell us that this is a lively market town (on which note, 'shopping' is an anachronistically modern term, try 'trading' or something along those lines), let us know by showing us some characters trading in a lively way. Even if they get burned up by a dragon a page or two later, make them as fully developed as you can in the time you have - it will make us feel their deaths more. Similarly, if you want to show one of your dwarves as old, and another as energetic, show us that in the way they interact, rather than just telling us.
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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » September 15th, 2009, 8:28 pm

Minor edits and updates!

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » September 17th, 2009, 8:50 pm

Edits and updates! (Respond or i get angry and when i angry people die! :twisted: )

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by solsword » September 17th, 2009, 11:00 pm

Well, you're starting to have a reasonable introduction for the dwarves. In fact, if the introduction weren't so awkward, I might be able to immerse myself in it and get swept up with the flow of the battle, when it happened. Unfortunately, phrases like:
Zigg wrote: Only four of the people in the party matter in this tale though, ...
really make it hard to take the story seriously or begin to suspend disbelief. The battle scene itself is still rife with problems, many of which have already been pointed out. Frankly, while I do like to see some progress, it's a bit galling to be asked so boldly to comment on a revision when many of my lengthy and detailed suggestions have been obviously ignored. One good example (although I guess it's not technically *my* suggestion) is that tsi's comment about the word "shopping" hasn't been addressed. And yes, I *do* expect you to address at least many of the points that I've brought up before you ask me to read something again. It's difficult for me to give a critique of something that's full of errors that I've already pointed out. Of course, other readers are welcome to be less harsh...

Anyways, at the very least you could honor my request to move all of the text into your original post to make it easier for people to read, quote, and comment on.

I'm... a little sorry to be this harsh, but I feel like I've been ignored here, to some degree. And when someone who is sort-of ignoring me asks that I *please* not ignore them, it rankles a bit. I did in fact re-read your story after your previous post, but upon seeing that there were still many issues that had been pointed out that you had yet to fix, I decided that the changes you had made weren't extensive enough to warrant another round of comments. After all, if you've already got a bunch of things to fix on your to-do list, it just becomes overwhelming if I add more. Plus, when you do get around to addressing some of those issues, some of your other issues are likely to clear up as well.
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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by kinthoran » November 22nd, 2009, 6:26 pm

I'm new to Wesnoth and the forum. can you send a link to the story so far so I can read it without looking at the previous comments? :geek:

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Re: Wesnoth Fan Fiction - Caves Of Gold

Post by Zigg » November 25th, 2009, 3:45 pm

It's unfinished

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