Reviewed [Oc] Week 281 - Alien Intelligences - Feedback

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Staff member
Feb 18, 2008
I want to preface this by saying I do like the direction you're trying to take this. I saw in Discord that you were wanting to try for more action, and I'm not sure if you meant this chapter or something you're still working on. Still, with that bit of info, I'd like to focus my feedback there, and go a little more in-depth than normal.

Right from the start, we're seeing some good things. Normally I advocate setting a scene in detail, but because the chapter is starting off with a chase, it serves the narrative to describe the setting in flashes. You've got shorter sentences, which leads the reader faster, reinforcing the rush of the moment. So far, so good.

The second paragraph, however, forfeits some of that moment by breaking tense (this paragraph begins in present tense) and speaking as a narrator. Since we skipped setting the scene at the start, I would recommend omitting most of it entirely. Mentioning people looking away, sure. A brief note that tells the reader it's in Lupanar, somewhere yes. However, turning away from the action to narrate here feels out of place. There's a few spots where this is interspersed after this paragraph, and I think, given the nature of the chapter, they aren't needed. You're telling a story about Lila and her quarry that happens to take place in Lupanar; you're not using them as an example to illustrate the nature of the district. This is a case where less is more.

I like small moments like when the two runners go over the wall. It's inconsequential in the grand scheme, but it's little moments like that which bring the story some life. More moments like that would be great, although obviously not to excess (something I've been guilty of before). The chase overall was fun, if brief. If this was your experiment into writing more action, I'd label it a fair success.

When the chase stops, though, things take a... strange turn. There's no hint to the reader to suggest why Lila stops running, she just does... and her pursuer stops with her instead of catching her or shooting her. Our pursuer reaches for his weapon but it should already be in hand: he shot at Lila during the chase.

I mentioned that it was good to keep the descriptions brief during the chase, but now that it's ended, we should describe the spot they stopped in. Like framing a scene in a movie, you want to establish the tone for the reader. For instance, if you wanted it to feel like Lila was desperate, putting her up against a dead-end, emphasizing how close or claustrophobic the setting is, painting it in dark or dreary color, all options to heighten the dread. If, instead, you wanted it to feel like Lila led her pursuer into some kind of trap, you could describe Lila being in some advantageous position, perhaps with the high ground, or with an obvious out nearby, recognizable advantages established with the pursuer spotting them one after another and changing his expression as realization dawns.

The exchange between Lila and the pursuer is also curious. The pursuer starts out by asking, "Do you really think I'm going to just tell you?" Then Lila asks again and it's like the pursuer can't wait to tell her everything (even if he's being cryptic about the details). I do like the way you set up the pursuer's possessed voice as something otherworldly... but Lila has very little reaction to that at all. She's not surprised or horrified, just sick to her stomach. At the end, I'm left wondering why the pursuer told Lila anything. Getting hit with one knife isn't the end for a normal human, and you established that while possessed, the controlled body feels no pain -- that should have made it harder to pin down. Lila didn't really force information out, she didn't seem to have 'earned' the aliens' respect, so why did it say anything? Why kill their puppet?

Ultimately this comes back around to some critique I gave you a while back, also. At the start of this chapter, you wrote "Moonie = Professor Craxtus." It's setting Craxtus up as the protagonist, and that makes sense given the scope of the story, but to date, Craxtus hasn't acted like a protagonist. He's been the hostage, he's been saved and shuffled around, provided some mentoring, but always acting as a supporting character. Even if Lila is the protagonist of this chapter, though, the information she gains isn't a result of her action, it's dropped on her. That is a recurring trend, where supporting cast or a deus ex machina move the plot forward.

This isn't meant to tear you down, though. I feel like your writing keeps improving lately, and I'm hoping some of this critique can give you ideas how to continue that trend. The plot is starting to move, and something meta I'd like to recommend (since I did it for my own writing over the holiday), is to try to gather up all of the parts of this arc and set them chronologically. It's a good way to straighten up a story in your mind and also to remind yourself how much you've gotten completed so far.

My last piece of advice relating to this chapter: don't write as an observer. It's not entirely avoidable, since we're typically writing from a third-person perspective, but remember that you are the author and your character is the protagonist, the leading character. Even if they struggle with the weight of responsibility, even if they make bad choices or are out of their depth, their actions should lead the plot forward.


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