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for The Father of Lights: An Alternative History

9/13/2007 c49 11Fabian Beswick
The Sadist and British teaming up and reanimating all the long-dead things in orbit doesn't bode well at all for the Prussians and Incans.
9/2/2007 c47 Fabian Beswick
Interesting, a bit of a cliffhanger in Chapter 46. Otherwise though, all this that you've introduced about there being prior intelligent races, and this "Entity" manipulating the Abrahamic religions throughout history, very, very interesting. Particularly the vision you mentioned of a Middle Eastern carpenter hearing a voice... Overall, very interesting.
8/25/2007 c3 12Lccorp2

Not too bad, I suppose. However, a few points I'd like you to take note of:

-Make conversation interesting to read. Many purely informational conversations are not. Nor are too many of those hesitating, circular conversations. Nor is a conversation where one character is witty and bantering and the others just gape at her in awe (even when the remarks aren’t particularly clever).

This is a place where characterization has to come first. Can you safely infodump through the mouth of the character, because he or she actually talks like that? Will he or she still have that personality when the author’s need to infodump fades? Or will (as happens far too often) the character undergo a complete personality change to become a spunky, happy, informal friend? If so, then you are relying too much on the dialogue providing information and not enough on it sounding like actual speech. Find some other way to infodump, or even better, not at all. If you’re using the omniscient narrator’s voice anyway, lack of contractions and words like “argent” belong there. If you have a stuffy character, be sure to keep him stuffy when the moment is past.

The same thing applies to formal scenes. It’s all right for a character on his best behavior to sound puffed-up when he’s being presented to the King. Outside the room, he should revert to his normal informality. Don’t make your characters oscillate back and forth between them without reason.

Make the characters equal conversational partners. What I don’t see very often is dialogue where both partners are of equal intelligence and able to trade barbs, jokes, or clever sayings with impunity. Many authors are up to the challenge of writing one such character, so I don’t think it’s a lack of wit. It’s more of an identification with that character and the feeling that no one should be able to match him or her. Try giving him or her one match, though. It won’t be the end of the world.

Other ways to make the conversation equal:

One character tries to annoy the other; the other keeps his temper and changes the subject.

One character is witty, clever, or dramatic, but the other holds power over her (such as being her captor).

Both characters are equally angry, despondent, or [insert emotional adjective].

One character keeps asking questions and being skeptical; the other has to respond.

The characters are being open with each other after a long time of keeping silent.

All kinds of ways to do it, and most of them are far more interesting than the witty banterer or wise lecturer dispensing her knowledge to the masses.

It's amazing how much dialogue varies. Unless the author is a tin-ear writer or writing for the first time, I can usually see all kinds of levels in a story: believable, easy dialogue; words I can accept under the circumstances; and dialogue that would never make sense in a thousand years.

That's all, I suppose, although I'd rather have SEEN the events that were ebing discussed in action, and this is pretty much an infodump. Reasonable effort, and coming from me that's a compliment.
8/24/2007 c42 Lord of the Trees
Hey what's been happening in the Middle East?
8/23/2007 c2 Lccorp2

Ah, alternative history. Haven't seen many of those around in the fantasy genre, save perhaps the Teimaire series and "Girl Genius", but we'll see.

Before I say anything, though, please be reminded that I am not telepathic. I cannot peer into your mind and read off explanations about potential problems that pop up in the prose itself. Until said problems are explained in the prose, it is a problem, and only when I've been satisfied will I retract my statements.

In short, I've explained the Duck Rule: "If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, feels like a duck, acts like a duck, think like a duck and so forth, for all intents and purposes it is a duck, while it might be a swan."

Now that we've gotten that over with...

Good thing you kept the prologue short. While there's plenty of "short" suspense, there aren't any characters to the reader to latch on to and it can get boring really, really quickly.

-If this is historical fiction, readers are still going to be expecting at least some of their real-world knowledge to apply. For instance, Blackbeard lived from 1680-1718, while ironclads didn't appear until the late 19th century.

As in all fantasy, you're allowed to make up the rules of your world. However, you're not allowed to vomit things onto the page and expect readers to lap it up-less if you're using something that isn't unique and altogether new to your world, and much, much less when writing historical fiction. If diamonds are proliferate in your world, this should be known before someone denounces a sack of diamonds as valueless and leaves the readers scratching their heads in puzzlement. If John Edward Teach was born later, or ironclads were invented earlier- and remember, by their very existence, mean that all the prequisites needed in their building and operation MUST be present. A simple Ironclad belies knowledge in metallurgy, mining, physics, and the like, it suggests an extensive coal-mining industry for fuel, and so forth.

Explanations don't have to be long or blatant, they can easily be subtly inserted into action or dialogue.

-Which brings me to the next point. In the first chapter, we're treated to a personal history of both Tommy and Teach.

No no no.

First off, you're breaking off any reader suspense you got from the prologue. The reader is now interested in the children whom they are escorting, and in the NOW. You snap the flow by not only inserting a flashback, but after that dumping the histories of two people, who as yet the reader does not know their exact connection to the children they're interested in, right smack dab into the middle.

Goodbye, flow and logical progression of ideas.

Introduce a character by sketching him or her in. Don’t sling a tidal wave of paint into the reader’s face. I can and have suffered through long, long paragraphs of character introduction before, emphasizing not only what the character looks like and some of the ways she thinks but where she lives, how many siblings she has, what her greatest dream is, what clothes she likes to wear, what’s her favorite music, what’s her favorite color, and on and on and AARGH (an exaggaration in your case, but you get my point). This kind of paragraph isn’t unusual for 700-page fantasy books, leading me to wonder:

a) When the authors have 700 pages, why do they need to dump everything about the character into these paragraphs?

b) Is the book only 700 pages long because of paragraphs like these?

c) How am I ever going to remember all of this?

d) Is all this information actually relevant? (Hint: no).

e) Why is the writer telling me everything like I am a ninny, instead of using a mixture of telling and showing?

I think one reason fantasy characters so often seem to stay frozen and static is because the author dumps everything about them at the beginning of a story, or the first time they’re introduced, and then doesn’t leave the reader anything to discover. Revelations about how the character behaves when angry, how she laughs, what she really wants out of life, are all laid out on the table. There are no interesting little trips to sideboards to find out more.

What details are essential? That depends on what you want out of the character. If you’re most interested in showing how this minor character shuffles around hiding a guilty secret, you might want to start out by introducing the way he moves, or the way he starts when someone says his name. Then the more suspicious behavior can be added on later.

An example of this is Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. At the start of the first book in the series, Storm Front, nothing too much is divulged about Harry Dresden in the opening pages- we know he's a wizard-for-hire in Chicago, and a few more details about the entities about him, and that's that. As the story progresses and readers have actually gained reasons to be interested in Harry's past and to be cheering for him, we get hints that Something Bad has happened to him in the past- and by the middle, when we know something about what really happened to Harry, the reader actually CARES about what Harry has gone through.

He doesn't dump it like you have about Teach, too- he works it into dialogue and action so it can serve other purposes like characterization and plot progression than just telling the reader this and that.

8/21/2007 c1 13Shadowhound
Interesting. Reminds me of the Bartimaus Trilogy in that England is supported by sorcerers, but otherwise seems different. I am a bit curious as to what Blackbeard has to do with this, though.

8/20/2007 c37 7Haku
Cool! What happens when rapidly-whooshing water shoots out at either end of the tunnel? Massive damage to those Sadist pillocks, no doubt!
8/19/2007 c36 dreamshell
Papists crucified on upside down crosses? Sounds like the cover of a Marilyn Manson album.

... XD

Great chaps. As per usual.

8/18/2007 c4 3Jenny Rocker
Well, so far, I have only read through chapter 4 (actually, I guess it's chapter three including the prologue), and the first thing that comes to my mind right now is that this is extremely bizarre . . .

Not to say that it's bizarre in a BAD way, in fact quite the opposite. While I'll admit that I really don't have much of a clue as to what's going on (beyond the British invasion, and I'm not talking about the Beatle), but I can say that you absolutely have me asking questions and curious to read more to find out what's going on. You have created this bizarre mix of a historical setting, combined with modern, futuristic, and fantastical aspects. I love how you take modern issues and conerns and apply them to events that happened in history, like obesity and laziness being a direct result of technolocial advancement, and how increasing techonological advancement comes at the price of the earth's well-being.

The only thing that I would suggest at this point is to not be afraid to delve a little deeper into description at this early stage of the story. I will continue reading in hopes that as the story progresses, more will be revealed to me and I will come to understand this world more, but you have to be careful that you don't confuse your audience too much. You have obviously put a lot of thought and planning into this, and you have given a lot of very specific details of the politics and the status of certain characters, but you also include a lot of things that up to now have only existed in your imagination, and as a reader, I'd like to picture these things as you are picturing them. Some specific examples of this I can think of is the machine-man Giovanni, and the boat with the liviathan beneath it.

Other than that, all I have to say so far, is . . . wow. This is SO unique. Awesome man.
7/29/2007 c23 dreamshell
The latest chapters are great. Zombie prostitutes sounds kinky. :P

Also, liked the little hint at the Sean-Shen romance.

The part with Alejandra and the wings was cool, but I have to say, I have somewhat of a hard time buying into an uber-believer going quiet at something a non-believer has said to them. In my experience, they'll just go on arguing their fanatical point. But, oh well.

Nice rampage with the behemoth. ;)

Lynn K. Hollander, not to sound like a dick, but maybe you could try commenting on something other than just grammatical issues? I mean, I'm a grammar Nazi myself, but when you do nothing but edit for the writer, it comes off as annoying. Plus, they don't get any insight to how you feel about the story itself. At least do a little of both.

7/28/2007 c4 Wendy Thompson135th
'Several religious tenants merged fairly nicely.' Homophones are tricky and beyond a spellcheck's ability. Unless you mean people who have rented from the local monastery or people who have rented a place to pray, I think you mean 'tenet'. Ditto 'suite'. 'Follow suit' refers to cards, the game Bridge for one.

'However, cross-cultural similarities to make politics easier.' ?
7/28/2007 c3 Wendy Thompson135th
'... saluting the polymath that was his direct boss.' Who, not that. Polymath refers to a person, not a thing.

'For the leader of the largest religious sect in Prussia, an experienced soldier, and a renowned philosopher, Khalid spoke very informally.' I don't think the conclusion follows from the first part of the sentence.

'...they weren’t in a position to discriminate costumers,” Khalid responded.' 'discriminate costumers' makes no sense in this sentence. 'Take any customers they can' does, and is a less formal choice of words, which Khalid's vocabulary possibly should be.

'...Japan must have leaders conducive to the whole anti-industrialist ...' 'Conducive to' doesn't seem to fit here. In sympathy with, tolerant of, might be what you had in mind.

“I know Cathay’s tried to isolate itself, but if that Bitch-Queen of theirs is serious about stopping industrial growth, we’ll be next.” Two paragraphs before this, Cathay was next and just before that, Japan was trying to keep itself isolated.

“As an American sympathizer to us once said, “A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished around the edges.” Quite a concise way to pit it.” Fourteen words isn't all that concise.
7/27/2007 c22 11Fabian Beswick
This story is so interesting and ... stuff, don't know why I hadn't favorited it before...
7/27/2007 c2 Wendy Thompson135th
"... both under ten years..." If these are real children, they have real ages, and if they're not real children, will the reader care about them? It help fix the reader's interest to know more about them.

"...the only other time when their mother had died." "The two terrified youths had been taken from their parents..." Conflict, unless their mother died in the siege.

"Tomás “Big Tom” Róibín was the last remaining member of the Taoiseach’s Cabinet. Having fulfilled his friend’s last request, he went to see to what the man who might as well be his last comrade in the world. The man was certainly no saint, but he was an experienced naval commander." The second sentence refers to three separate men, none of whom are named. The third sentence has the third man as the subject. I think a paragraph break to accompany the change of subject would make it easier on the reader.

"...the man had also been married fourteen times, and had prostituted his then-wife to his men." A little unclear: Did he prostitute one wife or all of them? '...and had always prostituted...' or possibly '...had prostituted all his wives...' or even '..prostituted each wife...'

"Rear Admiral." Would 'Rear' be used in direct address? Even by a civilian?

“I don’t trust you with the girl, Bonnie.” That seems as if the Author is saying that to the reader, not Tom saying it to Teach. They already know the girl is Bonnie. '...trust you with Bonnie.'

Teach mentioned. Tomas added. Teach described. Tomas said ominously. Again, a quibble about taste. I see nothing wrong with having characters simply say the dialogue. Having said that, I will admit sometimes I get equally inventive.
7/27/2007 c1 Wendy Thompson135th
",they were content to fall asleep in a dark corner of the cargo hold." 'Content' does not seem to convey the children's emotional state.

"... rescued the youths ..." 'Youth' is usually not a unisex term. I thought they were both boys, one with a strange Erse name, until later in the first chapter.

"Edward Teach knew it would be a long and distant voyage." The voyage is their present. It's right there. It's a long voyage to a distant, and at this time unknown, destination, but the voyage is right there in everyone's face.

"The fact all they likely ever knew had been destroyed would be a fact they would find out soon enough." A minor quibble about style. I would have said: 'That all they knew had been destroyed was a fact they would find out soon enough.' That form avoids the repition: "The fact...a fact..." which I found awkward.
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