Grimoire Chapter One: Inceptum
Hey there, sorry it’s take me a while to get to this! But I said I’d read through it, and I have. I’ll start off by saying that you have created a very contained world, that at the moment, doesn’t have much in terms of fantastical elements. There isn’t much really happening and it’s more about character development than anything else.
Here are my comments as I read
-You can get a little carried away with modifying the main clause with an *ing conjunction. It gives more detail, but it can make the sentence feel overburdened sometimes, especially if there are many in succession. For example:
“She stared into the mirror for a moment, slowly raising a brow as she examined her facial features curiously, slowly taking her hand to her cheek, pressing her fingertips against the flesh.”
(repetition of adverb ‘slowly’ too)
As far as I’m aware, you should try and keep to one (maybe two) main ideas per sentence. Here we have: staring into the mirror, raising a brow, examining facial features, taking her hand to her cheek, pressing her fingers. I think this should be cut into two sentences at least.
-Just as personal preference, I don’t see how explicitly saying "Hnyaahhhh!" makes any more sense than just saying ‘Mel yawned’; we know what a yawn sounds like, and it seems unnatural anyway to try and put it into words. It’s the same with shouting and screaming, saying ‘Aghhh’ is fine, but does it really add anything that wasn’t clear from ‘He screamed’ etc.
-“…in an attempt to clear the groggy feeling the plagued her this morning.”
‘This’ brings the narrative into the present tense. Should be ‘that’.
-“At the head of the room a metal extended out from the wall…”
A metal what?
-It took me a while to understand what this sentence meant:
“The balcony supported several aged consoles, terminals and a few tables adorned with various pieces of scientific equipment and tools.”
I think by adding a comma after ‘tables’ it makes more sense. The first time I read it, I read it as the balcony supported consoles, terminals and a few tables adorned (Adorned what? The back wall? The floor below) and then the sentence didn’t make sense.
-“Standing atop the balcony was a man, his hand resting atop the rail.”
Repetition of ‘atop’
-“An older fellow in his late forties, tall with tidy mahogany hair, streaks of grey interjecting themselves between the brown.”
There is no verb in this sentence. You either need to add a ‘He was…’ etc, or include this description in the previous sentence.
-“She blinked her softly and smiled for a moment…”
What does ‘blinked her softly’ mean?
-"Well, we can discuss it later, come on then give your dad a hug(period)"
You used a comma here by mistake.
-“Mel nodded cheerfully and took a small skip forward, wrapping her arms about her father and squeezing.”
I think ‘about’ should be ‘around’.
-“…banishing her stress and letting a calm sensation travel through her body.”
How stressed is she really right now? She’s just woken up, and doesn’t seem to be in a very stressful environment or situation.
-You’ve got to be careful with *ing, because it only serves to modify the previous verb, not add more information. Here there is a problem with chronological sequencing:
“Mel broke the embrace, taking a small step back…”
Mel needs to break the embrace and then take a small step backwards. It’s like saying, ‘She ran to the car, jumping in.’
-"We'll talk about it later, go on and get cleaned up, I'll be waiting in the kitchen."
I think these should all be their own sentences ending in periods; they’re three separate ideas.
-“As she entered the next room she stopped short, the area rather small and enclosed. A little basin sat on the ground with a small hole that funneled out into a tiny trench carved into the ground, which led
I’ve noticed that you use small quite frequently. In total, you use it seventeen times, mostly in the first half of the chapter.
-“Over the basin there was a pump and pipe which Mel quickly grabbed…”
You either need a comma after pipe, or change ‘which’ to ‘that’.
-“…pulling back on the metal device as hard as she could.”
I’ve always had an issue with things like this. You introduce the pump, as it is, a pump. But by then calling it ‘a metal device’ it makes it sound like you don’t actually know what it is. You’ve called it a pump once; you don’t need to call it by any other name. You could easily just say:
“Over the basin there was a pump and pipe(comma) which Mel quickly grabbed and gave several yanks on the handle as hard as she could.”
-“The legs of the chair skidding across the kitchen floor with a loud scratch and she wasted little time getting to her meal.”
The starting clause has nothing to modify and is grammatically incorrect. It’s like saying:
‘Running with a pant and she skidded to a halt.’
-“Mel please, you're a grown woman. You need to pace yourself a bit while eating."
I get the impression that the man is quite methodical and meticulous. I don’t know whether he would say ‘a bit’ in this context.
-“Mel slowed herself to a stop, the spoon stuck in her mouth and a drop of hot red liquid streamed down her chin.”
-The corridor eventually lead into a large room, rather unspectacular save for the singular terminal that stood close to the doorway.”
‘lead’ should be ‘led’
-“Near the terminal was a large metallic circle on the floor that took up the vast majority of the area…”
-“It appeared rusted but sturdy.”
This is one of the first times I’ve noticed that you’re using a short sentence. It works really well to break up the amount of long ones you have.
-“The object had always been a mystery to Mel(semicolon) she had no idea what it was or why it was there.”
-“Mel complied by taking a seat beside the door…”
-“The whirring of machinery came to an end but an audible hum remained.”
‘An’ or ‘a’ determines an object as unfamiliar. That’s the difference between ‘the table’ and ‘a table’. Because you’ve already introduced the hum, you should use ‘the audible hum remained.’
-It’s an interesting character choice to have her so amazed by the liquid. It works well that she isn’t afraid or intrigued by the aether, because of how you’ve introduced her so far.
-You fluctuated between calling Mel a girl and a woman. I know they’re technically the same things, but then, they do have slightly different connotations. Consider only using one.
-“cross(hyphen)legged” – you’re using this as single adjective, so it needs a hyphen.
-"Does this mean I can go outside!?" she exclaimed, eyes aglow.
You shouldn’t use both an exclamation mark and a question mark at the same time. It looks unprofessional. And anyway, you already say she ‘exclaimed’ anyway, negating the need for a exclamation point.
-“Mel's father sighed deeply as he replied. "Mel we've talked about this, you know you can't leave this place," her father replied.”
You say her father replied twice.
-“The pair travelled back toward Mel's bedroom, the girl was rather nervous and still deeply uneasy.”
-Why is the present in her room, under her bed? If it was a gift from her father, wouldn’t it be in his room? Why hide something under her bed that he has to get out to give to her anyway? There’s a chance she could find it by mistake.
-“Hardcover and rather tattered with the words "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz" written across the surface.”
In order to differentiate from speech, maybe you should change the double quotes to single quotes?
-“Mel was still staring at the object, vacantly blinking at it(period) "Thank you daddy," she murmured, throwing her arms out and pulling him into a tight squeeze.”
-Why does the father talk to himself? Maybe this should be written as thoughts:
"Hm, it's been twenty years and it still fits. I guess I'm in better shape than I thought I was," he said to himself as he rolled his shoulder and adjusted the coat, getting used to its fit once again. "A bit tighter than I remember though."
-There’s a(nother) problem with chronological order of:
“Then in an instant it was all over, the great door slamming shut, a loud clang echoing throughout and then silence.”
Actually, it’s taken a bit of thought to realize why this doesn’t make sense. Simply, the sentence reads:
‘It was over, the door slamming shut, a loud clang echoing and then silence.’
Both ‘slamming’ and ‘echoing’ refer to the verb. In this case, was (or to ‘be’). The problem is, there’s not much connecting them. To be is very vague of any intention, so having slamming etc doesn’t seem to follow.
The problem with chronology lies with the fact that you state it is ‘It was over’ in the past. Modifying something with a present description in the past doesn’t work. My suggestion is to rephrase it as:
“Then, in an instant, it was all over. The great door slammed shut and a loud clang echoed through the following silence.” OR
“Then, in an instant, it was all over. The great door slammed shut with a loud, echoing clang. There was silence.”
I’m only going into so much detail with his line, because it’s the final one, and need to be poignant enough to create a sudden end or cliffhanger.
-You use very complex sentences, but not in a varied way. You extend much of your writing by using *ing, often twice in one sentence. It makes it quite tedious to read, since it gets repetitive. Every piece of detail is extended by a future comment. What you extend with are great details, but at the moment, they’re not written as creatively as they could be.
-I found the father much more interesting than Mel. Because of how she’s been raised, she very naïve. To me, that’s quite annoying. The father has more interest because he is more mysterious. The technique of using a character unfamiliar with the environment of the story to ‘inadvertently’ explain things to the read isn’t particularly original here, but I guess it worked. Come to think of it, I’d be much more intrigued see the story written from the father’s POV than hers.
-I never really felt as though the danger of the outside was ‘real’ enough. Is there any way of bringing more of that danger in? Like I said, it would be more interesting to have the father’s POV, maybe he could have a short flashback to a dangerous time? It would juxtapose with the safety of where they live now quiet well.
- So far, I don’t really care about Mel, she’s a bit whiney and kind of annoying. But I guess that’s how she was raised. She’s very childlike, and that means I can’t identify with her. We do learn a few things about her though, but only really details. There is obviously some big secret about her we’re yet to learn.
-Nothing really happens. I know you say you’ve mentioned the aether, and that’s good. But as far as actually progression of plot, there’s a lot of words for relatively little action. We learn that he’s got to leave for more aether, but that’s it. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s more about character development.
Leaving very repetitive syntax aside, you’ve got good details in his chapter, and you start, quite slowly, bringing the reader into your new world. I can’t identify with Mel, she’s conflicting (because of her age (21ish?) and her still childlike mind). It makes it hard to care about her. Although, I do wonder what is happening with her father, more than anything.
You don't use any linguistically techniques as far as I can tell. There might have been the occasional metaphor, or alliteration. But as far as wider techniques go, there's not my creative symbolism, either in large or small terms. Nothing is represented in different ways. Take Mel for example, when she eats, what does that mean? Why does she eat quickly? She's hungry? She like to consume? Consume what? Knowledge? Should she be more questioning when it comes to the aether? The same with finding sharp, contrasting opposites. Like with inside and outside. You begin to think about the air, but it's more than that. Inside could be dark, but safe. It might be interesting to be slightly scared of the light and be at home in the dark - and reverse the usual thought. How could you play with these techniques?
Let me know if you have any questions!
The world was meant to be contained at the beginning. It's part of the integration into the setting. The idea was to start in this small world, Mel's home and to slowly expand outward, exploring the world as the story progresses.
All I can say regarding your first point, it was the first chapter I uploaded and it was well over a year ago. I tried my best to update it but sometimes it's hard to go over your own work properly. You're right, I'm surprised not one other person has pointed that out, thank you.
I like including sound effects occasionally, some people have said they liked it, others didn't. I think it's split down the middle based on the various reviews I've gotten so I try to limit my use but some do make it through.
There were some weird tense shifts in my early stuff, again, I'm surprised nobody else caught that one. Thanks, I'll fix it all up as soon as possible.
A pretty bad typo, the world balcony was supposed to be in there. I was so sure I'd gotten everything but somehow, something always slips through the cracks.
I didn't even know that one was an issue. In all my time writing not one person has said that isn't okay, not my creative writing teacher in high school, not my writer friends, nobody on dA.
God dammit, where are all these typos coming from. I was sure I gave this a good edit not too long ago. Well thanks for pointing them all out.
I'll fix that.
About, around, I think either one can work.
Perhaps stress was the wrong word. It was written that way to express one of her little mental tics in that physical contact helps calm her down. It's a common trait of people with certain mental disorders and while I didn't want to give her a specific disability I wanted to include some relatively realistic traits in that regard. I'll reword and make it more reasonable.
I'll fix that.
Yes, they'd be three separate ideas in narration because that's properly written, but this is dialogue and the way it's written reflects the way the character says it. People don't always talk in proper sentences. When I see a period there is more of a mental pause for me than a comma, so period in there would just look odd to me. I'll take a look at it anyway, see what I can do.
Seventeen times huh? I suppose you're right, it's something I noticed myself but never really felt the need to change. I'll work on that.
Thanks for that, I'll edit a comma in then.
I figured it was a good way to avoid repetitive word use. I suppose it's not exactly useful here however.
Sorry, it was my first chapter, a lot of amateur mistakes. I'll get around to fixing them as soon as possible.
I suppose you're right, that piece of dialogue would work better without the "a bit."
Another typo, sorry about that.
Lead vs led, I know that rule I just didn't for quite some time and it became a habit. I always forget to fix it editing because at first glance I don't see anything wrong with it, despite the fact that I know it's wrong.
More typos, damnit.
In my older writings I used longer sentences a bit too much, another one of my habits that I'm trying to break.
Curse you semicolon, curse you.
Actually there was supposed to be a comma after complied, so it should look like "Mel complied, taking a seat by the door." Another little typo of mine, I'll fix that as soon as I can.
No, the hum and the mechanical whir are too different sounds. The hum is the noise made by the aether, while the whir was the noise of the mechanical device in operation.
Thanks I guess.
I tried to alternate in order to vary up the word usage, but I see what you mean.
Thanks for pointing that out.
I have to disagree on that point, while yes, I shouldn't have used exclaimed (my earlier work had too many speech tags) an exclamation mark and question mark are totally fine when used together. It's to convey an exclamatory question and I've seen it done many times in the past.
Another thing that I'm amazed slipped past previous editors and myself. I'll fix that as soon as I can.
I'll fix that.
It seemed simpler and it could be justified that he hid it there for a number of reasons. I just didn't want to stretch it out any further by having him run off to his room and come back. I'll see about making that make more sense.
I've gone back and forth on that and in my more recent work I always go with single quotes, so I'll have to edit that.
I'll fix that.
I figured talking to yourself wasn't all that strange, I do it when I'm alone. Only briefly, I mean it's not like I carry on conversations or anything. I didn't really see it as being abnormal.
I'll have a look at that final line, see what I can do with it.
I suppose what you're saying does make sense and it'll be helpful when editing future chapters. I'm just a bit confused by how nobody else had a problem with any of that and I've had quite a bit of feedback on this chapter.
Well I guess there's an up and down to that because the father isn't the main character. He's central to the plot but the story is more about Mel. I'm sorry that you didn't like her but at this point it all comes down to opinion and I've had a lot of readers who really liked the character. Mel is sort of an unfamiliar POV and while it's not a revolutionary technique by any means, it's a useful one especially when you get deeper into the setting.
No because the idea of this chapter was to establish Mel's life. It's part of the build to the main plot. We need to know who Mel is and what her life is like before we can affect a meaningful change to it. The danger is only suggested because making it more real and more present would alter the tone of the chapter too dramatically. I wanted to convey a quiet, happy lifestyle at the beginning and then let things present themselves later.
If you don't like Mel there isn't much I can do about that one, she's supposed to be childlike. Of course she does experience development through the story but that's something that stays with her.
Something does happen, just it's not exceptionally exciting. This chapter exists to establish the characters, the setting and a few things that will serve as key elements throughout the story.
Thanks for your time, the critique is appreciated. There were a lot of little mistakes I'd made so long ago and I'm glad you picked up on them. I'll go about fixing them when I have the time.
Beyond the technical aspects it seems you're just not a fan of the protagonist so I'm not sure any of this will go from here. It's hard to really keep going if the hero is no to your tastes. Maybe in later chapters the character will endear herself to you, maybe not.
I'm not sure what some of your comments are referring to!
If there's something I don't reply to, then I agree with what you've said or don't think it's an issue.
-About, around, I think either one can work.
You say 'about my person' as in, 'somewhere on me'. About is more general than around. You could easily describe her hug with him as her arms were in his general vicinity. 'Around' is a much stronger image.
-Actually there was supposed to be a comma after complied, so it should look like "Mel complied, taking a seat by the door." Another little typo of mine, I'll fix that as soon as I can.
I did wonder that, but by adding 'by' I was trying to break up the repetitive syntax.
-No, the hum and the mechanical whir are too different sounds. The hum is the noise made by the aether, while the whir was the noise of the mechanical device in operation.
Ah yes, my bad, I read it wrong.
-I have to disagree on that point, while yes, I shouldn't have used exclaimed (my earlier work had too many speech tags) an exclamation mark and question mark are totally fine when used together. It's to convey an exclamatory question and I've seen it done many times in the past.
In all writing I've ever seen, they're never used together. At least not in anything written to a professional standard. It's fine when just talking to friends etc, but it's widely regarded as bad grammar.
-It seemed simpler and it could be justified that he hid it there for a number of reasons. I just didn't want to stretch it out any further by having him run off to his room and come back. I'll see about making that make more sense.
He could just take her to his room?
-I figured talking to yourself wasn't all that strange, I do it when I'm alone. Only briefly, I mean it's not like I carry on conversations or anything. I didn't really see it as being abnormal.
It wasn't a big issue. I just wondered.
I guess you could say that it's a personal choice about the repetitive *ings. I've had issues with them in the past, so they stick out to me as being problematic. I think I'll rephrase what I meant as 'bad form'. I mean, what you do is fine, and is technically correct (for the most part). It just doesn't give you any opportunity to show off any creative flare, if you will. Keeping the reader guessing via plot line is one thing, keeping them guessing by creative wording is another.
I never meant to say I didn't like Mel. I couldn't identify with her for plenty of reasons, but as a character, you've made choices about her, and kept to them. I can respect and admire that. I was only pointing out what I thought (to me) would be more interesting to read about - i.e., the father. I think also, you can build more of this 'idyllic lifestyle' into some of the descriptions. You say she's living in some sort of bunker, filled with wires and cables. It sounds, on the whole, not a very nice place to live. How could Mel see the beauty in that world? What could the cables overhead represent? (You describe them at one point as being 'out of the way', but does Mel see it like that? She's childlike, so what could a child think of the cables? Do they need to be followed? How could they be used in some sort of game?)
Character introductions happen, that's what I'm getting out. There's no action, really (apart from the introduction of the aether). It's one of the first things I learnt about at university in prose writing - it's good to start with one of the most climactic moments of the story, because then the reader becomes hooked more easily. It's hard to get them to care about characters in such a small amount of time.
I definitely will continue. I realise now that you're much more heavily invested into the story than a lot of other works I read on dA. I haven't found the balance between questioning what's read (because it might be wrong) and accepting strange aspects (to assume they pay off in the long run). If that makes any sense.
I do go into a lot of depth, both in terms of technical elements and plot structure. And while the grammatical errors are usually either wrong or right, plot comments are more subjectional, and anything I say in regard to that should be taken as an opinion rather than a problem.
I'm sorry if I sounded too critical or devaluing to your work. I'm like you, I'm hard to impress But when you do, you'll know it!
Each of my comments are referring to the analogous paragraph in your critique. So my first line is in reference to your first line and so on.
"I never meant to say I didn't like Mel. I couldn't identify with her for plenty of reasons, but as a character, you've made choices about her, and kept to them. I can respect and admire that. I was only pointing out what I thought (to me) would be more interesting to read about - i.e., the father. I think also, you can build more of this 'idyllic lifestyle' into some of the descriptions. You say she's living in some sort of bunker, filled with wires and cables. It sounds, on the whole, not a very nice place to live. How could Mel see the beauty in that world? What could the cables overhead represent? (You describe them at one point as being 'out of the way', but does Mel see it like that? She's childlike, so what could a child think of the cables? Do they need to be followed? How could they be used in some sort of game?)"
I didn't necessarily mean idyllic, but simply happy, comfortable. I suppose you do raise a good point however, I could have found ways to expand on the facility based on the way she sees it. It could be a very interesting way to present this setting. That does sort of come into play later as it's heavily implied that Mel takes while the concept of going outside excites her at first, she does come to find comfort in small, tight spaces.
It'll be good to get your technical support on this and hopefully as the story goes the plot and characters will start to click a little better with you.
Wait, I think I've figured out what it is!
You write the chapter from Mel's POV, but you still use description that I think she would never even think of saying. There's a big contrast between her thoughts and the world around her, and I find it too dissimilar to feel like it's coherent.
What you're writing is good, honestly, but exactly how it's been written doesn't feel quite right to me.