Aug 01 2009

Kuro’s Review Forum

Published by at 5:06 pm under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks!

16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Kuro’s Review Forum”

  1. Kuroon 08 Aug 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Chapter One

    Nyx crouched low to the ground, watching the mountain goat hungrily. It might
    not be the first choice of any wolf, but it was food, and if they were quick enough, the dark leader and his Pack just might get it.
    It had been a fortnight since Nyx had become leader, and so far, everything was perfect.
    No wolf dared to challenge his leadership, every wolf obeyed his word, and all in all, it looked to be an easy-going winter, in spite of a few major snowstorms a few weeks previous.
    And now, it looked like they were about to catch a relatively easy bit of prey. The goat the
    Pack had surrounded was old, weary, and slow. It wobbled around, nibbling at the scant stalks of grass that it dug up from underneath the white blanket of snow. It was all going according to plan. Two wolves would rush at the beast, driving it towards where Nyx lay in wait. Several others would dash in from the side, preventing it from escaping. The remaining wolves were behind Nyx, ready to jump out when the goat was near enough.
    Nyx caught a glimpse of Naito’s dark fur shifting slightly, and knew that they would commence the attack in just a few, brief moments. He got ready to leap forward. . .

    . . .and from the side of the mountain came a surprised, terror-stricken yelp. The goat shot
    forward and swerved to the side, leaping over a large rock and shakily bounding out of reach. Nyx sat up slowly. He could see the surprise, disappointment, and irritation from his Pack as they, too, sat up, giving the would-be prey up as a loss. Nyx glanced at each of his members to ensure that none of them had hurt themselves and therefore had made the yelp. When he came to White Falcon, a former loner, he paused. Falcon glanced at his new leader, and grinned slightly, as though he knew something Nyx didn’t. Nyx ignored it; the lowly member would learn his place soon enough. Nyx trotted to the place where he thought the yelp had come from, and what he saw mildly surprised him:
    There lay a bleeding, brownish-gray she-wolf upon the rocks. Yet another loner.
    First losing dinner, now gaining another mouth to feed, for Nyx wasn’t quite so cold-hearted as to leave her for dead.

    – – –
    Nyx watched as the loner, lying in a temporary nest of pine needles, slowly came to, slowly opening her eyes. She sat up hesitantly, shook her head a little as if to clear it, and looked at Nyx.
    “Who are you, and. . .where am I?” she asked drowsily.
    “I am Nyx,” Nyx replied, keeping his voice carefully cold and emotionless, just as the previous leader had taught him. “I lead the Dusk Pack. You are as of now in my camp. And who might you be?”
    “Er. . .Olive. My name’s Olive, and I, well, I have no Pack…”
    “I can tell.”
    “How?
    “Let’s see, you’re skinny, scrawny, unkempt, starving, apparently rather depressed, alone, and either careless enough or stupid enough to walk right off a cliff, if you didn’t walk off it intentionally, that is. Either your Pack are all mindless, pathetic idiots and you’re a deserter, or you happen to be a loner.”
    Olive hung her head in shame and embarrassment. “Yeah, I’m a loner.” she said softly. “What are you going to do to me?”
    Nyx looked at her appraisingly for a moment. “I have no choice but to let you stay for a while. I’m not heartless enough to let you starve, seeing as you’re unfit to hunt even the dumbest, slowest of prey.”
    At this, Olive jerked her head up. “You’ll let me stay?” she asked hopefully.
    “We’ll see.”
    Nyx walked off, leaving Olive alone in her makeshift nest, tucked in a corner of the camp. Naito, the beta, was lying down just inside the camp. He looked up as Nyx approached him.
    “Well?” said the dark gray beta. “Is she gonna stay?”
    “We’ll see.” repeated Nyx, looking up at the first stars in the dimming sky. He sighed. Another mouth to feed was annoying, but another hunter to help feed his Pack could be useful. Very useful indeed.

  2. B. Macon 09 Aug 2009 at 12:11 am

    Here are some thoughts and suggestions, Kuro.

    –Giving us backstory so early (telling us that that Nyx had become pack leader a fortnight ago) makes the pacing a bit slow, I think. One possible revision: you could try starting the story shortly before Nyx becomes leader. (I think the death of the old leader would make a fairly effective inciting event and would help introduce the main characters).

    –I don’t feel like the first paragraph is terribly gripping. The second sentence is a bit long and convoluted. Also, I’d recommend replacing “watching… hungrily” with a detail that shows us he’s hungry.

    –“No wolf dared to challenge his leadership, every wolf obeyed his word…” You could probably show this. Maybe have him lord his status over the lesser dogs?

    –“No wolf dared to challenge his leadership, every wolf obeyed his word, and all in all, it looked to be an easy-going winter, in spite of a few major snowstorms a few weeks previous.” Lot of commas here. This sentence could probably be smoother if it were split into 2-3 separate sentences.

    “The goat the Pack had surrounded was old, weary, and slow. It wobbled around, nibbling at the scant stalks of grass that it dug up from underneath the white blanket of snow.” I like this. The wobbling is a strong way to show that the goat is old and weak.

    “…at the scant stalks of grass that it dug up from underneath the white blanket of snow.” This could probably be shortened.

    If the main character’s name is Nyx, I’d recommend renaming Naito. As a rule, I’d recommend against using the same first letter (because readers tend to stumble over names that look a bit alike).

    “He could see the surprise, disappointment, and irritation from his Pack as they, too, sat up, giving the would-be prey up as a loss.” You could probably cut out some commas here by eliminating two of the three emotions (surprise, disappointment and irritation). Also, I’d recommend showing the emotion(s). Are they… scowling? Frowning? Gnashing their teeth at the air? Etc.

    Is capitalizing Pack necessary?

    I’d recommend cutting White Falcon to just Falcon for stylistic consistency.

    “Nyx trotted to the place where he thought the yelp had come from…” This could probably be smoother. For example, “Nyx trotted towards the yelps.”

    “There lay a bleeding, brownish-gray she-wolf upon the rocks.” Does the color of the wolf matter?

    “First losing dinner, now gaining another mouth to feed, for Nyx wasn’t quite so cold-hearted as to leave her for dead.” I think this sentence conflates two actions that are important enough to deserve their own sentence. 1) The trouble of having another mouth to feed and 2) his decision to not leave her for dead.

    Does it matter which wolves are former loners? That bit of backstory seems to be coming up a bit.

    “You are as of now in my camp.” I would recommend removing the phrase “as of now.”

    If he’s supposed to be cold and emotionless, I’d recommend replacing “I can tell” with “Obviously.”

    I like the sentence where he lays out his litany of observations. I’d recommend adding in a shot about her competence. Also, I think he will appear more authoritative if he removes the word “apparently” from “apparently rather depressed.”

    “Nyx looked at her appraisingly for a moment.” “looked… for a moment” could be replaced with glanced. However, I think that the adverb appraisingly can be shown rather than told. What’s he looking at? How does this come across differently as a look that isn’t appraising? (For one thing, I imagine he’d examine the quality of her claws and legs because if she’s not healthy enough to run and fight alongside them, she’s just a liability).

    “dark gray beta”– does the color matter?

    I feel like you have the start of a cliffhanger here– the introduction of a new character complicating the mix– but it could be sharper. More urgent. Higher-stakes. Etc.

    Generally, I thought this was pretty good.

  3. Marissaon 09 Aug 2009 at 12:27 am

    I’ll be dropping in to review tomorrow, but just a thought before I go:

    Why would a wolf go by “Falcon”? In wolf psychology, that’d be naming the character after a lesser predator. Is the character looked down on?

  4. Kuroon 09 Aug 2009 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the critique. I should have the revision done by tomorrow.

    A falcon to a wolf isn’t necessarily lesser, just a predator of a different sort. Falcons hunt alone and focus on speed and stealth, much like the character. At least that’s how I look at it.

  5. Marissaon 09 Aug 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Alright, I’ll give you that one. It just feels odd to have a wolf named after a bird of prey, but that’s a pretty good reasoning behind it.

  6. Lighting Manon 09 Aug 2009 at 1:45 pm

    But why is he named that? Why did he pick that name or get that name? Does the society that you’ve establish allow for such wasteful things as observing a non-prey species so long as to determine that their habits and behaviors fit his personality?

    Wouldn’t any Pack member that wasted the bodily resources on such an endeavor have been scorned for it? How did a loner afford to dedicate precious time to doing that when he should have been trying to survive?

    If it’s something he learned without seeking the knowledge, how is knowledge passed from generation to generation? Does a Pack keep older generations around as keepers of the lore? A single wolf? Are cubs taught in a formal setting while growing up or is it still just playing to develop hunting skills? Does the knowledge from the first generation of wolves that functioned on the current mental level still exist in some form?

    For that matter, why did falcons stay falcons despite wolves having evolved to the point that they’re at in your story? Are they larger? Are they more powerful? Do they still fly? Birds in particular are highly sensitive to changes in the ecology of an area, did they change their behaviors? What do they eat? Are there still rodents like mice around?

    Why didn’t goats change? How did they manage to fill the same ecological niche without humanity to manage them? Feral goats aren’t a common thing in most areas, and those in farms or kept as pets without human handlers would’ve be in serious danger of overpredation. How did they manage to survive? Is it a wild goat?

    Why do the other two have the names they do? Naito, far as I know, is a Japanese surname, and Nyx is a feminine Greek name from a lessor known goddess, whereas he has been established as a male, which is slightly odd. Are Nyx and Naito like Todd and Steve, but White Falcon is like…White Falcon? Why is other’s name Olive? Because it is clearly a female name? Her colour? How did their society evolve so that these are the names they have? Are N sounds more easily pronounced by their presumably still primitive vocal cords?

    What language do they speak? Is it English? Did they pick up English from still-functioning human technology? Do they speak a language unique to them? Do they speak a chimera of human languages? Do they write? Do they read?

    What about habitation? He refers it as his camp, what is a Pack camp? Do they build structures? Fortify natural protection? You establish that there are borders to the camp towards the end, are there walls? Urine trails? Markings made with teeth or claws? You mention that it is a temporary nest made of pine needles, do they make more extravagant beds?

    Partially, these questions are matters of simple curiosity, but I also think that the majority of them are things you might want to think about if you haven’t already. With the path that you’ve set on, you’re not just telling a story, you have to build an entire world, several species, and with what you’ve laid down, a civilization for at least one of those species, and a history for all of that. You stated that your intended audience is primarily teenagers if I remember right, they’re going to have some of the same questions, and regardless of if it actually makes it into the finalized work or not, the fact that you know will make the universe seem fuller and more real.

  7. Lighting Manon 09 Aug 2009 at 2:14 pm

    In all the hubbub, I forgot to mention that I think you’ve done a really nice job so far beyond what B. Mac mentioned and to keep up the good work.

  8. Kuroon 09 Aug 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I have given a lot of thought about some of these things. I was thinking that all that could be revealed as the story progresses. Falcon chose his own name, and why he chose to name himself after a bird would probably give too much of the plot away. I named Nyx after the Greek goddess of the night because I was going to make him female to begin with, but I decided to change his gender, since in his society, females aren’t considered to be very competent leaders yet.

    The rest of those questions will be revealed in time. Thank you for mentioning the birds and goats. I haven’t thought about that. Hmm. . .

  9. Kuroon 10 Aug 2009 at 9:13 am

    Chapter One

    The old leader lay dying.

    His son, Nyx, sat the death-watch by his side, staring up at the stars in the sky. He knew that by morning, he would be the new leader of his pack, Dusk. He glanced down at the two bodies at his paws, the light, still one, and the dark one who still clung to his life. Nyx sighed. He would miss his mother. She had been good and kind. His father, Storm, however. . .
    Storm coughed, a raspy, grating sound. It wouldn’t be long now. The others had almost finished the grave that would hold his parents. Shade, the beta, climbed out of the hole. He panted, and walked slowly towards Nyx with his tail dragging on the ground.
    “How i-is he?” Shade whispered, looking at Storm.
    “What do you think?” Nyx asked coldly. Sometimes he wondered if Shade even had a brain. He always asked the most pointless questions. Storm stopped moving. Nyx got up and bent his head down, listening for breathing. There was no sound. Storm was dead.
    Two wolves jumped out of the pit, panting and shaking dirt from their coats. The pack gathered around, staring at the old wolf who had guided them for so long. Nyx knew what his duty was. He, and he alone, was allowed to touch the dead. He stepped over Storm and grabbed Pine, who was closer to the pit. He grabbed the scruff of her neck and dragged her over the large, dark hole. He stepped over her and pushed her into it, watching as she was swallowed up by the darkness. He then grabbed Storm and did the same. His part in the ritual was over. He stepped away as his packmates, with many whines and murmurs, shoved the heap of dirt into the dark pit.
    Nyx sat down and looked at the sky. The stars were disappearing. Dawn was coming. He looked over to the east, and could barely see the silhouette of the mountains, only slightly darker than the rest of the sky. It was morning. A new day. A new start.
    In just a little while, it was over. All that remained of the pit was a wide, shallow dip in the ground, nothing more. Most of the pack gave the grave one last look, and headed back to camp to rest before the hunt. One, however, didn’t move. Nyx knew easily by the vivid white fur who it was. Falcon. The newest member.
    He stood still, as if in shock. Nyx waited. It was tradition that the new leader pay his respects to the dead alone, after everyone else had gone away. He couldn’t understand Falcon, though. It wasn’t as if the passing had been a surprise. It was a surprise that Storm had taken so long to die. The old grey leader had been annoyingly resilient, fighting until the end. And besides, it wasn’t as if Storm’s death was sad. Nyx, for one, was almost. . . relieved that he was gone. Falcon had been the farthest away from Storm, emotionally. So why was he so upset?
    “I am sorry,” Falcon said quietly, interrupting Nyx’s train of thought. “I should leave you alone now, should I not? I will go.” He bowed his head at Nyx and walked towards camp, disappearing down the slope. Nyx shook his head slightly and turned to the grave.
    Tradition dictated that his bowed his head and thank his parents gratefully for their wisdom and guidance. But since no one was watching, why hide what he really felt?
    He laughed. It was a cold, joyless sound. He then said, “Father, thank the stars you’re gone. If there’s really a world of horror under the ground, I hope you’re there right now. If the legends are true, then enjoy your place in the skies, Mother. You deserve it.”
    And with that, he turned his back on the grave, and ran down the slope to the trail. He got to it, and followed it uphill, climbing the stony mountain slope. He reached the place where the mountain split in two, and descended the steep, narrow path down to the sheltered valley. Before he entered the clump of trees that sheltered the camp, he took one last look at the sky. Clouds were coming, and a frigid wind began to blow. It would storm soon.
    He entered the clearing. Shade immediately came up to him and bowed his head.
    “S-so,” he said in his usual nervous way. “W-what do you w-want to do now, Alpha?”
    Nyx looked around. The pack was not doing so well. They were too thin. No one had been able to hunt while Storm wasted away.
    “We wait for the storm to pass, of course,” he said. “And then, we hunt.”
    “B-but. . .”
    “Yes?”
    Shade looked troubled. “But a-all there is t-to hunt is goats and m-moose. Goats are too a-agile. And moose are s-so dangerous!”
    Nyx smiled. “Exactly.”

    ______

    How’s this? I tried to give it a bit more of a cliff-hanger at the end. . .

  10. Kuroon 11 Aug 2009 at 9:47 am

    So. . . how’s the rewrite? Is it better than the first?

  11. Kuroon 13 Aug 2009 at 8:46 am

    Okay, I don’t want to be a nag, but could someone please critique me on the rewrite of the first chapter? I’d really appreciate it.

  12. B. Macon 13 Aug 2009 at 1:49 pm

    On it…

  13. B. Macon 13 Aug 2009 at 2:10 pm

    –Although I generally recommend against making the hero high-born and/or royal, I think that making him the son of the leader creates a lot of interesting opportunities you could pursue. (Is he really ready to lead? Will the rest of the pack follow his lead when the going gets rough? Will they hold the nepotism against him?)

    –I think that there are still too many commas. “His son, Nyx, sat the death-watch by his side, staring up at the stars in the sky. He knew that by morning, he would be the new leader of his pack, Dusk. He glanced down at the two bodies at his paws, the light, still one, and the dark one who still clung to his life.” By my count, that’s 56 words and 8 commas. I’d recommend cutting it down to maybe three commas in that passage. In fact, in general, I think your writing would become smoother if you limited each paragraph to three commas.

    –“He glanced down at the two bodies at his paws, the light, still one, and the dark one who still clung to his life.” Why do the colors matter? If they don’t, please eliminate them.

    –I like the phrase “his father, Storm, however…” — it seems like a sober and fairly stylish way of implying that his father was not a nice guy.

    –If the father’s name is Storm, I would recommend giving Shade a name that doesn’t start with S.

    –Does the character’s pack need a name? Does the father?

    –“He, and he alone was allowed to” could possibly be “Only he could…”

    –I think the passage where he buries his parents could be shorter and/or more urgent and/or more emotionally powerful. The paragraph beginning with “two wolves jumped out of the pit…” feels a bit like a how-to-hold-a-funeral-guide. It didn’t really move me.

    –“vivid white fur…” “The old grey leader…” Does the color matter?

    –“Nyx, for one, was almost… relieved”– I’d recommend showing this rather than telling it. It might be more effective to work this into something like a eulogy? Or, if not a eulogy, then maybe something like a brief inauguration speech.

    “should I not?” This inverted syntex is a bit awkward. I’d recommend looking at #1 on the list of fantasy novel guides here.

    I like Falcon’s voice.

    The narrator spends a lot of time telling us what the tradition is.

    I like his breaking with tradition when he’s alone at the grave. It gives him more personality than he had before.

    I feel that giving him a goal here might make the scene more urgent.

    “The pack was not doing well. They were too thin.” This is important enough that I would recommend mentioning it earlier.

    “too a-agile”– maybe replace a-agile with f-fast? Does agile fit the character’s voice more than fast does?

  14. Kuroon 13 Aug 2009 at 4:59 pm

    ‘Kay, I’ll make the changes. But Falcon’s vivid white fur sets him apart from most other wolves in the area, plus it actually adds to the plot later on. I don’t want to spoil too much, though. . .

    Here’s the rewrite:

    The old leader lay dying.

    His son, Nyx, sat the death-watch by his side. He stared up at the stars in the sky and knew that by morning, he would be the new leader of his pack, Dusk. He glanced down at the two bodies at his paws. Only one clung to life. Nyx sighed. He would miss his mother. She had been good and kind. His father, Storm, however. . .
    Storm coughed, a raspy, grating sound. It wouldn’t be long now. The others had almost finished the grave that would hold his parents. Coyote, the beta, climbed out of the hole. He panted as walked slowly towards Nyx with his tail dragging on the ground.
    “How i-is he?” Coyote whispered, looking at Storm.
    “What do you think?” Nyx asked coldly. Sometimes he wondered if Coyote even had a brain. He always asked the most pointless questions. Storm stopped moving. Nyx got up and bent his head down, listening for breathing. There was no sound. Storm was dead. Pull
    The digging stopped. The thin wolves of the pack gathered around, staring at the old wolf who had guided them for so long. There was a heavy silence in the small clearing, as if the creatures of the night had stopped to mourn for the fallen leader. Nyx knew what his duty was. He alone was allowed to touch the dead. He stepped over Storm and grabbed Pine, who was closer to the pit. He grabbed the scruff of her neck and gently pulled her over the large, dark hole. He stepped over her and pushed her into the darkness, and Storm soon followed. His part in the ritual was over. He stepped away as his packmates, with many whines and murmurs, shoved the heap of dirt into the dark pit.
    Nyx sat down and looked at the sky. The stars were disappearing. Dawn was coming. He looked over to the east, and could barely see the silhouette of the mountains, only slightly darker than the rest of the sky. It was morning. A new day. A new start.
    In just a little while, it was over. All that remained of the pit was a shallow dip in the ground, nothing more. Most of the pack gave the grave one last look, and headed back to camp to rest before the hunt. One, however, didn’t move. Nyx knew easily by the vivid white fur who it was. Falcon. The newest member.
    He stood still, as if in shock. Nyx waited for him to leave and let him finish the rituals. He couldn’t understand Falcon. It wasn’t as if the passing had been a surprise. It was a surprise that Storm had taken so long to die. The old leader had been annoyingly resilient, fighting until the end. And besides, it wasn’t as if Storm’s death was sad. Falcon had been even the farthest away from Storm, emotionally. So why was he so upset?
    “Storm may be gone, but that does not mean you will be without a strong, effective leader,” Nyx said.
    “I am sorry,” Falcon said quietly,. “I should leave you alone now. I will go.” He bowed his head at Nyx and walked towards camp, disappearing down the slope. Nyx shook his head slightly and turned to the grave.
    Now was the time that he should bow his head and thank his parents gratefully for their wisdom and guidance. But since no one was watching, why hide what he really felt?
    He laughed. It was a cold, joyless sound. He then said, “Father, thank the stars you’re gone. If there’s really a world of horror under the ground, I hope you’re there right now. If the legends are true, then enjoy your place in the skies, Mother. You deserve it.”
    And with that, he turned his back on the grave, and ran down the slope to the trail. He got to it, and followed it uphill, climbing the stony mountain slope. He reached the place where the mountain split in two, and descended the steep, narrow path down to the sheltered valley. Before he entered the clump of trees that sheltered the camp, he took one last look at the sky. Clouds were coming, and a frigid wind began to blow. It would storm soon.
    He entered the clearing. Coyote immediately came up to him and bowed his head.
    “S-so,” he said in his usual nervous way. “W-what do you w-want to do now, Alpha?”
    Nyx looked around. The pack was not doing so well, and no one had been able to hunt while Storm wasted away.
    “We wait for the storm to pass, of course,” he said. “And then, we hunt.”
    “B-but. . .”
    “Yes?”
    Shade looked troubled. “But a-all there is t-to hunt is goats and m-moose. Goats are too f-fast. And moose are s-so dangerous!”
    Nyx smiled. “Exactly.”

  15. B. Macon 13 Aug 2009 at 5:07 pm

    “But Falcon’s vivid white fur sets him apart from most other wolves in the area, plus it actually adds to the plot later on. I don’t want to spoil too much, though…”

    Then could you at least foreshadow why it matters? For example, his white fur might be a cue that he’s not from around here. I think that would set us up well when we learn that there are other white wolves later. (Which I assume is why his unusual color matters).

    Other than that, I’d recommend proceeding to chapter 2.

  16. Lighting Manon 13 Aug 2009 at 10:56 pm

    ““How i-is he?” Coyote whispered,
    “What do you think?” Nyx asked coldly.” — The English bothers me a bit in these lines of dialogue, specifically the word “what” in response to a question phrased with a “how” It doesn’t flow very natural to me and to answer in that manner seems very strange. To put it another way, Coyote inquires about the status of a thing and Nyx responds by asking about the nature of a thing. This could just be me or my ignorance though.

    “Sometimes he wondered if Coyote even had a brain. He always asked the most pointless questions.” — This seems excessively childish, like something you’d hear on a preschool playground or between two small siblings in a local shopping center while you contemplate soaking their mother in butane. It suggests what I assume to be unintentional immaturity on Nyx’s part, but while that would fit in the majority of high-borne characters, Nyx has presumably had numerous responsibilities since he reached adulthood or adolescence, which would build maturity.

    This is another line that threatens to break immersion for the reader, in my opinion. Why would the brain be a symbol for intellect? They presumably haven’t been bisected or dissected since arriving at this evolutionary point, even if they had done so on casualties, they wouldn’t be able to understand the significance of it. This is an example of human knowledge that they really wouldn’t possess.

    Your allowance for suspension of disbelief is severely, severely limited by the fact that your leads are primitive quadrupeds. They presumably can’t have science of any sort, which limits their understanding of the world at large, and anatomy far beyond the norm.

    Of course, I might just be nitpicking, in which case I apologize. Good work all around though!

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