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Entry #1

Discussion in 'Q4 2019' started by Xiph0, Nov 19, 2019.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    Selwyn's silver eyes shone under wandlight as he checked what looked to be an incomprehensible map, a heavy, gilt bowl built like a wide goblet on his shoulder. He was a score or so younger, but no green boy himself, not half so green as Avery's son, by any measure. Avery estimated the man was around forty years old, but for all his experience with the locals and their language, Selwyn was there to learn. There was no one better to teach than the master.

    "The Dark Lord must need these people's aid more than he needs either of us at his side." the younger wizard muttered as he settled on a direction, moving the prop roots out of his way with a slashing motion of his wand, resisting the urge to cast a fire charm.

    "That much is clear." Avery muttered. "He has never needed anyone by his side; he has never lost a duel. We are here only because he cannot be in two places at once." He is like to believe I at least know the truth of it. I am nearly as old as the Lord Voldemort himself, the last surviving relic of his school days. His transformation has been as great as it has been terrible; even our old friend Mulciber was nothing to him the moment his disloyalty was revealed.

    He left it ambiguous as to what exactly their master wanted of the whoresons with the gall to hide their palaces in the thickest jungles and thicker warding- from muggles to be sure, but honored guests all the same. Perhaps it is a test.

    Avery closed his eyes and raised his wand, slowly letting out air.

    "Seith heul" he whispered, tiny yellow stars appearing around him, moving in a circle. Intricate stonework faded into view in a dark clearing, the other Death Eater reservedly impressed. "The most skillful works of magic fade in the light of the sun." All it does is show us what is really here. Breaking the wards will be a separate challenge. He glanced at a diagram Selwyn was holding.

    A finely dressed man stood on a wood platform carried by demons, or perhaps some kind of goblins naked to the waist. In turn, they rested on the back of a white elephant, resting on a wood platform of its own. Fitting that the Dark Lord would send us to a proper magical society, one that carries with it a proper hierarchy. We shall find friends more easily than expected.

    "Highly advanced magic around here has to do with the spirits, summoning them, trying to get them to work with you rather than against you. Some of them are more helpful than others. Can't tell if they're using the spirits or the spirits are using them." Selwyn explained. "This place is meant to have a Bo Bo Gyi, and this is a picture of him." He gestured with the picture of the wizard.

    "How literal."

    Selwyn set the goblet-bowl on the earth before him, filling it with a length of fabric, a deep blue with ornate silver decoration. I suppose that explains why he was so insistent on buying the fabric in Yangon.

    A spirit did not appear before them as expected, but Avery was able to hear its voice, incomprehensible though it was.

    "What is he saying?"

    "I believe he's just asking us what we're doing here. Seems interested."

    "We are here to parley with the masters of this temple."

    "It's a castle. Not everything with the gold and the stonework-" the younger wizard just sighed and translated the message.

    The spirit seemed to have disappeared.

    Avery resisted the urge to ask if it were a good sign, deciding that he could not completely rely on Selwyn's understanding of the language and culture. Whatever reading he had done, whatever magical method he had used to accelerate his understanding of Pali and Kachin, there was no teacher like experience. To learn the art of negotiation, of course, he would have quite the experience indeed.

    "Hello."

    The pair of them turned around to meet a middle-aged man with a red robe, his bare chest decorated with only a tiny jar on a black cord. I had expected at least one of them would speak English. I had hoped they would not reveal it, that they would think we assumed otherwise. Now the chance to deliver a 'secret message' is ruined.

    "Good evening. We are Death Eaters, those the Dark Lord has sent on his behalf."

    "I am Weizza." the strange wizard started, adjusting the beret-like cap on his head. "There are those who call me Ñaṇābhidhammālaṅkāra." Is that your name, then? "I am confused as to whether you are here to learn, or to teach. I have never met someone as skilled at Vipassanā, outside our corner of the world."

    "...seeing the true nature of things." the younger dark wizard whispered, answering the unspoken question.

    "I used a Middle Welsh spell." Avery explained, following the man toward the castle. "My family keeps the old magicks safe from the disinterested rabble, and future generations will thank us for it."

    Their guide had no audible response; he simply led them up the stairs and the two of them took in their surroundings.

    The clearing in the jungle almost certainly did not actually exist, but was warped space, or if it did exist there were charms that repelled the nonmagical that they had not been able to detect thus far. Thrice as tall as the highest tree sat the shrouded castle, its many-pointed tiers growing narrower and narrower as they reached out to the sky as a spearpoint, a great spike that must have offended flying wizards with its own import.

    The interior was a great octagonal chamber, a circular pool of the darkest blue in the center. Wizards and witches of old had been made into enormous pillars, and might have been the only objects in the room not covered in burnished gold. There was a wizard in some sort of green armor with an enchanted sword at his belt, pacing back and forth. A placid witch wearing a gold traditional dress twisted a bamboo parasol as she motionlessly levitated the bones of some animal into a goblet-bowl filled with white sand. As Avery moved closer to her he could see the faintest white tattoos on her pale face.

    Rowle will be arriving in Yangon in a matter of days. Killing some of the revolutionaries is unlikely to kill the Minister's plant among them, but is enough to raise a general alarm. He will, naturally, leave a dark mark at the scene and if he is caught it will be of no serious consequence.

    The armored wizard, by contrast, would be from the Jade Army, if the information was correct. They supported the royal family, but he knew little else about him. That would make him the master of this castle.

    "What ails you?" Avery asked, expecting Selwyn to translate it.

    "With the passing hour the revolutionaries grow closer to unleashing the war elephants." he explained, in English. "You must be the help that was promised me."

    The aged dark wizard smiled gently.

    "We may be of some assistance. Perhaps, though, you could direct us to the Weizza we were meant to meet here." From his earliest training in negotiation, he knew that it would always be to his advantage to direct his appeal to the most powerful, the master of the castle in this case. It belied a lack of confidence to allow himself to be taken into the consideration of an appointee, subordinate, or any hired wand. No, the matter he was presenting would be regarded with the importance that he implied it had by how he directed it.

    "I am Weizza." the armored wizard answered. Is the witch weizza? Is anyone here not- "You may call me Singu Mahagiri, commander of the Shan of the Jade Army."

    "It would hardly do to introduce yourself and not the lady." Selwyn intervened. "Have you a common purpose?"

    Avery kept his amusement to himself. The other Death Eater likely had as little idea as he what manner of help the native had been promised, but it warmed an old wizard's heart to see his confederate refrain from leaping to acknowledge any debt, without entirely leaping away from it. It would be like the Dark Lord to send them into such an arrangement and expect them to use their heads and figure it out; he truly only cared about the results of an operation in which he played no part.

    "Nat-Kadaw Me Saya U Thuyaung is a Keinayi associated with the royal family." Was that all her name?

    "...seer, some kind of advisor-" the younger wizard whispered, turned from the others as if merely admiring the decoration.

    "So you have much the same interest." Avery extrapolated, leaving out the obvious 'as we presumed'. So neither of you is master here. You are both guests, as much as we are.

    The dark wizards turned to the man who had shown them in as one.

    "We have come to arrange an alliance on behalf of the Dark Lord." he explained, weighing his options. It was normally not ideal to explain one's purpose, as it should either already be known or left for others to learn by listening closely. "A dark wizard in Yangon told us that there were those who would meet with the Lord Voldemort or his representatives."

    Ñaṇābhidhammālaṅkāra stared back, his expression unchanged from bemused interest.

    "Your friend was lying. I have heard of no foretold meeting between any Voldemort and anyone else. And yet, it seems our guests were expecting you." Avery's eyes turned to the seer for a moment. They knew not who would come, but whoever came would speak English. "Perhaps, then, fate has brought the four of you together." He ignited a pipe of some sort before sitting down before the circular pool.

    "You are here, then, to help us." Singu started, raising a bamboo wand in a fist to his heart, a salute, perhaps. "The Shan forces of the Jade Army are known for their sense of honor. The moment we have recaptured Yangon and the Andaman Sea from the revolutionaries, our forces will crush your enemies." Selwyn's lips thinned, but the older wizard refrained from any such reaction. It was true that the Death Eaters could spare no wands from their current conflict, especially not in numbers the armored man before them would find reasonable, but it was better to keep that from their guests at present.

    "Perhaps they will." Avery ventured, smiling somewhat. "Perhaps, though, when the royal family succeeds in destroying most of the revolutionaries, it will still suffer from international pressures. We have plants in their numbers, and they know that when they begin to lose, they will not unleash the war elephants, as they have threatened, but scatter to Siam and China. Apart from spelling the certain doom of Secrecy, the war elephants are an art lost to the ages, something even the most skilled summoners can no longer manage."

    "This is... incredible news." the soldier responded, pacing again, as if to hide his expression. "Had it come to our attention that they were making an empty threat-"

    "Please allow us to finish." the younger wizard started back. "The war elephants would be the least of your worries, even if they were under the command of your enemies. Neighboring Siam has stared hungrily at your territory and sea for decades, and a new government, weary from battle, would provide the perfect opportunity to strike. They will learn your tactics from the refugees and respond with a greater force than you can directly repel."

    Avery might have sincerely smiled at this point, happily surprised that Selwyn was picking up on his train of thought, considering exactly none of it was based in truth.

    "Are you a nat-kadaw that you make speak with their spirits? How do you intend to negotiate with our neighbors?" Me Saya U Thuyaung asked, taking an apparently sudden interest.

    "There is no need to confine ourselves to one option so soon." the older Death Eater intervened. We do not reveal what we intend to do for them. They will think of it themselves, and they will suspect nothing. "The issue is that to those outside your region of the world, many will not distinguish between you and your enemies. What does it matter to them if one wins or the other? Either seized power by force, and neither has reasons with which outsiders concern themselves."

    "Were the royal family to be recognized by a known international diplomat, they would accept such recognition gladly." the seer said, her eyes still looking directly forward.

    "We are no politicians ourselves, though we might be able to provide the very thing you seek." Avery decided, reaching into his wizard's pouch, which contained a bargaining chip that had proven serviceable in the past. "Notable and well-connected in our own land, we can guarantee that the Ministry will recognize the royal family as the legitimate government of Burma, and should we fail in our endeavor, you may keep all you see before you." Before them he levitated a great chest of gleaming riches, more brilliant than the eyes could believe. He had no reason to suspect gold was entirely uncommon in Southeast Asia, if they had enough to be making temples and castles with it, but its value could be seen in the eyes of the armored wizard. The witch, by contrast, continued to stare forward. The aged servant of the Dark Lord wondered for a moment if there was a different ritual for seeing with the Inner Eye in other parts of the world. He cast the notion away. True seers were rare, and it seemed unlikely to run into one so fortuitously.

    "Were we to have had such wealth at the beginning, the war would have been ours in a stroke..." Singu speculated. Whether or not you might have won with more gold I cannot say.

    "What is your part in all this?" Selwyn asked, turning to the red-robed wizard with his feet in the water and a hand on a pipe. "How did these two find you?"

    "I thought you would never ask." Presuming him to be remotely decorous, anyone would have drawn the same conclusion. "I dislike the revolutionaries. Their ways are modern, and they do not honor our ancestors or the spirits. I met the beautiful nat-kadaw you see before you a few months ago when meeting with the royal family. Singu here claimed he would win the war for me if I should aid him, and though I did not believe him, I introduced him to Me Saya U Thuyaung." In for a knut, I suppose.

    "Do you believe he will win the war for you now?" Avery asked.

    "He has the will. Since we are asking unexpected questions, what are you called?"

    "Our family name is Fudge." he answered before allowing the younger Death Eater to speak. He had some idea naming conventions were not universal. "I can promise that before victory in the war, the British Ministry will openly decry the revolutionaries." They will for threatening to violate Secrecy if nothing else. This government of useful idiots is quite receptive to fear.

    "The royal family will be grateful to our guests and their promise of legitimacy. They had as much from the nats, of course." the tattooed witch started cryptically. "The concern, however, is conquering our enemies. The future remains uncertain."

    "The future is always uncertain." Selwyn argued, keeping his expression neutral for all the good it would do. Do not imply that the practice of divination is useless. Soothsayers of all stripes take pride in being able to knowledgeably assist in decisions of consequence. "Victory becomes more likely as the revolutionaries lose their resolve. There is no need to tell them you know their threat of war elephants is false; do not let the very idea of it leave this room. They will know it themselves and before long they will realize there can be no victory for them, because victory would mean defeat in the next war."

    "No more lives need be wasted." Avery said, contextualizing his partner's remarks. "No wars with your neighbors need be waged. Perhaps the outcome of the war is uncertain because there will be peace."

    There was an uneasy pause.

    "What did you want from us?" the armored wizard asked. I might have suspected there would be some limitations with magically learning languages, whether in idiomatic complexities or the occasional tone deaf question. He understood there were many ways to go about it; there were books, there were potions; Selwyn had used a memory in a vial he purchased a few weeks in advance.

    The question, however, well and truly remained. There was little the Dark Lord had told them, and little of it was of any use at all. His exact words were 'There is a master of a secret art in a jungle about three miles east of Zaungtu, a village north of Yangon. Now go, I cannot be in two places at once'. He and the other Death Eater had been expecting the official order, since the Lord Voldemort had mused about various places in Southeast Asia where he would have liked to study, had he the time.

    "We wish to learn secrets of magic from the master of this castle." the younger dark wizard asked. It generated a smile on the face of Ñaṇābhidhammālaṅkāra, a name Avery continued to hope never to have to pronounce.

    "I might have shown you a thing or two for free, after your display in finding my little hideaway." the red-robed wizard said, letting out a puff of smoke. "I had thought I had prepared for everything, but then, that is the nature magic, is it not? It surprises you and works around everything you knew. Our laws are illusions; constantly being changed as we learn how little we know."

    The man rose from the pool, his pipe vanishing. He drew a long red stick from his sleeves, holding it on either end.

    "Ah." Me Saya intoned, turning to look. "It has been a long time since I have seen this, the most hidden of all the magic of the Weizza."

    All eyes were on him as he danced, the stick above his head. This is absurd. Am I being insulted? The dance continued as if to spite the question in his mind, and Selwyn was actually watching carefully, as if he would recreate it. The seer had even conjured what looked like a harp, only smaller and resting sideways on her lap as her fingers glided across the strings. The song seemed to reach a fever pitch as the wizard stopped, planting his staff out to the right before apparently apparating into a mirrored position and taking it. Looking back, he was on the other side again. Avery thought for a moment that his eyes needed to adjust, perhaps he had been somehow mesmerized by the unfamiliarity, but as he stared it was undeniable.

    The wizard was in two places at once.

    It was no illusion, no mere trick and that much was infinitely clear as the pair of them walked around the room, carrying on an inane conversation in Kachin with the other two occupants of the room simultaneously. Mercifully, Singu appeared to be as baffled as they were, never having seen such an ability in all his days.

    "Do you think you have a clear enough memory that you could show it to your master?" one copy of Ñaṇābhidhammālaṅkāra asked.

    "I should think your demonstration more than sufficient." Avery responded, as grateful as he sounded, maintaining decorum. Though I cannot imagine the Dark Lord performing such a dance, the mere possibility of duplicating oneself- how is it possible? How does the brain control two bodies at once? Are we being deceived?

    "And do you have plans to show your memories to your master?" Of course. What choice do I have? Even the vilest deceit, the most fanciful rumor he would have brought to his attention. It was not, of course, to say that every idle fantasy would be worth the Lord Voldemort's time, as he had killed men for wasting it, but he had also killed them for keeping from him what turned out to be valuable.

    "Yes."

    "No." Selwyn answered after him. I suspected, and yet I should have known. "The Dark Lord has returned from death. He has no need to be in two places at once."

    The red-robed wizard nodded, tapping the floor with his stick. A wave of light spread like an inverted shadow toward Avery, avoiding his hasty shield.

    "I appreciate your discretion." the original said, his copy disappearing with a bow. "Consider the knowledge you have gained a parting gift. Your friend will wait in perfect tranquility until you decide to return for him."

    It was as described. The Death Eater was immobilized, not a single thought entering his mind. He saw and heard in clarity, and that was all.

    "You may decide not to return." the seer predicted, her eyes forward again. "I suspect you have what you need."

    "I may." Selwyn said, turning to go. "When the Lord Voldemort is gone, my friend will have no one to fear. It is always interesting to visit relics of the past."

    "Do." Me Saya U Thuyaung insisted, her tone opposing the disinterest in her face.

    "If our meeting is concluded, I am needed elsewhere." Singu Mahagiri announced, extending a hand for the seer for the royal family to be escorted.

    At long last Avery was alone with Ñaṇābhidhammālaṅkāra. The wizard strode peacefully toward the pool.

    "Perhaps it does not suit you." he started, not looking at anyone. "Pay it no mind. In time you will be able to enter and leave this state with ease, as I am. Time, of course, will have no meaning to you for the next thousand years or so."

    In the most literal sense, the aged dark wizard knew nothing of Selwyn's plans, or what, if anything, he intended to do with the knowledge. His memories of their plans for the recognition of the Burmese royal family still existed, but it seemed he was quite unable to access them.

    "I shall leave you with something to ponder, to recognize that it was you and not your associate who demonstrated interesting magic this evening." The Death Eater gave no sign that he heard. "Do you believe I trapped you here only that the other might escape? Perhaps I have made a mistake, and I have done the wrong thing entirely." He spun, pointing the red stick at the floor, where he conjured a seamless square of wood. "There are other explanations, of course." Goblins surfaced from the pool, their olive green skin and twisted faces unrecognizable as anything human, or near enough. They spat water out from between their tusks. "I do not promise that you will leave your state of tranquility if you discover the truth, but I shall be interested to hear what you have learned when you do."

    The grunting goblins lifted the wooden dais and carried it from the atrium, out to the darkness of the steps of the castle. Avery wondered where the bizarre wizard meant to go in the dark, but there was nothing for it. He had no information save what had been suggested, and no thought except what he had been asked to ponder, the ripple in the calm of his mind.

    The doors closed. The meeting was concluded, and as the last gasp of the night air moved his cloak, the hour and the outside world lost all meaning.
     
  2. Niez

    Niez Slug Club Member

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    Hello :)
    A bit of an odd tale, and I’m afraid, not in the good way.

    The main weakness with this story, I think, is the setting of the scenes. You fail to establish several key factors in each scene (who, where, what) quite often, leading to confusion. I didn’t know this story was set in Burma until someone stated it halfway through, for instance, and, more importantly, I don’t think I had enough contextual clues to pick it up. In any case a bit of Mystery is all well and good, but clearly you did not intend that fact to be a reveal but rather you did not realise that some struggling readers may have needed a bit more to realise where exactly not-in-Kansas the story was taking place.

    To further illustrate this point consider the first scene, probably the most important one in a short story. Going by your opening phrase we know there are two(?) Death Eaters talking, and that they have some sort of mission, but we don’t know where they are, other than in a jungle, nor how they got there, their state of mind, etc. You do not have to tell it all to us outright, of course (in fact, you shouldn't) but this is where descriptions play a part. Showing a couple of these while tickling our imaginations is what makes good writing. But there aren’t many descriptions; in fact, you have a serious lack of them throughout your story, which leads to exposition being mainly from Avery’s thoughts or dialogue. That could work as a stylistic device I suppose, but it doesn’t here, because - again, you didn’t mean it. It’s just something that happened because you avoided describing things too much.

    This whole issue becomes rather more troublesome when you fail to establish people entering and leaving the stage, so to speak, nor who they are. At several points I was confused as to how many people were present, what parts they played, who were they talking to, etc. This could really be the death toll of a story, even if it wasn’t bad enough for that to be the case in yours. You need to understand that whilst all this boring setting stuff may be in your head but it isn't in ours, and the curse of knowledge is not an easy to get rid off.

    Compare your opening line:
    To this:

    Selwyn’s mane of dark hair covered the map from the Death Eater’s sight. Not that seeing it would have done him much good, Avery reflected, given the poor visibility offered by the few strands of reddish light left in the sky. The heat of the rainforest was still stifling, but the promise of darkness eased some his irritation. The elder man did not comprehend why the Burmese preferred to use carpets, rather than brooms, forcing them on this painful journey on foot. Still, the Dark Lord wanted to treat with these recluse wizards, and treat with them they must.

    It might not be better, but at least you know where you are, as well as how they got there, who is there with you, and a couple of hints as to why they are there and what they intend to do.

    I struggle mightily at descriptions, as you can clearly tell, so I understand the temptation to outright skip them, but without them the reader is blind. We can only know what’s going on from what you tell us or the dialogue between the characters, but I don’t want to only hear a story damnit, I want to see it.

    There is also an issue with characterisation, as little as there is. You at times went over-the-top with Avery as a bigot/evil pureblood, so much so in fact, that I knew from line four that the magical society they were negotiating with was about to wreck their shit up. I didn't see Selwyn’s betrayal coming, admittedly, but then again, it wasn’t set up at all (we know nothing of him) and it makes little sense. Avery was just thinking how Voldemort kills all those who try to keep secrets from him and there goes his companion aiming to do just that. How does Selwyn intend to stand before Voldemort and explain his missing companion, or apparent failure in getting what Voldemort wanted? Is he aiming to run away from him and not return at all? Because we all know how that turned out for Karkaroff.

    The last issue is one of language. Apart from the odd sentence structuring (to be expected if English is not your first language), you have the tendency to end speech (“”) with colons. This is not always correct, but fortunately @Halt has a magnificent series of posts where he outlines the difference between speech tags and action beats, as well as great writing advice in general (here:https://forums.darklordpotter.net/threads/writing-advice-thread.37586/) Go take a look and then come back. You also have a tendency to call Voldemort ‘The Lord Voldemort’. Stop that. It’s Lord Voldemort, or Tom, if you are Dumbledore or Harry at the end of book seven.

    There are positives, of course, which I briefly mention just so you don’t think that I completely hated it. I like the setting - though again, I would have liked to have seen it - and having Avery be a childhood friend of Voldemort could have had interesting ramifications on the interplay between Death Eaters. In any case I hope I haven’t discouraged you/angered you too much, and a big thanks for participating. I put my rating and a few random comments below if you are interested.


    2/5, though it could easily be higher if you but set the scenes a little bit better.

    A heavy bowl on his shoulder. (and then more descriptors if you want it)


    Younger than who? So far we know only of Selwyn. I know your narrator is not Selwyn, but the third person POV makes it seem like it could be so - at least at the beginning, and thus this ‘younger’ is confusing. Especially because you are using ‘Avery's son’. If this is all from his perspective, why not use ‘my son’?

    That needs to be a comma. Also, use ‘Selwyn’. Until you establish the number of people present, using identifiers like ‘younger’, ‘older’, and ‘handsomer’ could lead to confusion as who exactly you are referring to. Besides, they are often unnecessary.


    What a doozy of a paragraph. That first sentence is a bit confusing. ‘I should know the truth of it. I am nearly as old as the Lord Voldemort himself, the last surviving relic companion of his school days (why would he call himself a relic?). That second thought makes little sense. You don’t need to be a dreaded Dark Lord to think of nothing of a erstwhile friend who has now betrayed you. That's not particularly strange or sinister. Besides, though I like my great but terrible Ollivander puns, Voldemort is shown to be quite the bad cookie from early on. If Avery is truly a childhood friend he should know this.


    Again with the slightly confusing sentences. Why is Avering insulting the Burmese for having the ‘gall’ of hiding their palaces from muggles? Do wizards not do that everywhere? And then you drop us with ‘but honoured guests all the while’. Who is an honoured guests? Avery and Mulciber? How does that follow from Avery insulting them? And if it's not them then who? This one is indeed rather confusing.

    Are you being serious right now. I know nazi parallelisms exist in Canon but this is just too much.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
  3. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Right off the bat there's an immediate confusion as to who the protagonist is, in whose headspace we are. Selywn? Maybe, but then you hit us with the "Avery estimated", which dethrones Selwyn pretty handily, IMO. Could be Avery, but he's locked out of the more important parts of the introduction, like understanding what the non-English wizards are saying.

    This sense of confusion extends, IMO, to the whole piece. You're being super obvious when it comes to the negotiations, spelling out what's happening and why it's important - or at the very least trying to. And then, when they have failed (why?) Avery gets I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'ed and you don't explain anything.

    I also have to admit that I don't really get a sense of a foreign place. You use foreign names, but there's little descriptions of the setting. Definitely could have used some more of those, to differentiate this place from the British locales we're used to.

    In the end I don't really get what's happened or why or even where, and that's a problem. Add to that technical errors like not changing periods to commas before interrupting dialogue, and not generally captivating writing, and you get a 2/5 from me.
     
  4. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    A couple of specific technical points to kick off with. The first paragraph took me a few passes to get to grips with; the POV isn't initially clear, although it quickly clears up. It's mostly the bit about Selwyn being green. And the section about Rowle being in Yangan feels like it's been dropped in almost at random, and makes the comment in the next section about 'in contrast' briefly confusing.

    More generally...I found it quite dry. That works, to an extent, with Avery's character and POV, but it does mean that by the end, I wasn't really invested enough to care about it when Avery was betrayed (or when he made a mistake? I'm not entirely sure how that was meant to read, although I assume betrayal on the basis of Selwyn's final remarks. Maybe some combination thereof. A mistake fits better with the (apparent[ theme of Avery's arrogance running through, which I thought was a nice touch). Other than the points above, and the aforementioned dryness, technically it's pretty well done, although for a story on the theme of other regions, I struggled to properly picture the setting, possibly because of that dryness.

    I think, all in all, my ultimate feeling on this is that it's not that memorable. I've read it a couple of times now, going back through for closer analysis, and I'm still struggling to remember finer points. Decent effort, but a bit undercooked.
     
  5. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Joined:
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    UK
    Protagonist:
    Selwyn I think is a poor protagonist in this piece. I didn't feel that he was particularly engaging and sometimes his thoughts were difficult to follow. He certainly had a plan and did his best to achieve it, so I bought into his desire. But other than that I didn't particularly feel for him. I think you tried to build up to a big turn by having him decide to honour the secret and not do what the Dark Lord sent him to do, but there was so little warning that I picked up that it didn't feel like the natural conclusion. It didn't feel like a reveal or a twist, it just felt like a squib.

    Antagonist:
    The antagonist here is the Dark Lord. The pressure that he places on Selwyn, and the threat of the environment. I think that's conveyed well enough, and certainly, some of his snobbery and what he's actually concerned about comes through well enough. However, in the final part, I think it needed to take a little longer. The danger of the scenario doesn't feel enough to overcome the antagonism of the Dark Lord that's propelled them on this expendable mission. It should feel like more of a challenge than it does.

    Plot and prompt-use:
    I found the plot a little bit tricky. I understand sections in retrospect of reading them, not on reading them. You need to work on your expression and your scene weave, because at present the emphasis is garbled and the plot of a short story shouldn't be hard to follow, it should be simple. The prompt use is everything I would want to see. Unique characters in a unique setting. I'm a little disappointed that it was expendable characters doing something of little importance. I know that sounds odd, in something that threatens their life, but it's not a personal endeavour to them. I'd want the desire of the protagonist and the personal meaning to him to be a little closer to the chest. Make it feel more meaningful.

    Theme:
    I think that you could pick up on this to an extent as we went through. But my understanding of it is decidedly lacking. Something about multi-tasking, expendability and being in two places at once. I'm unclear what thinking point I'm supposed to be taking away. Again, in a short story it needs to be clear as glacier-water.

    Climax:
    The climax was underwhelming, and the final crisis too. As said before, it's not so much the resolution as the turning to get there. It didn't feel like he'd done quite enough to guarantee his survival and turn on Voldemort's mission for him.

    Dialogue:
    Your dialogue is serviceably written but that's it. It doesn't stand out. Certainly, your characters sound different and you can tell who's talking. But, on the other hand, there's nothing particularly compelling about their voices. They're a little direct in their speech. And they speak entirely too much. This fic is entirely talking until some brief magic at the end, to my mind. A tip I read once was: try and construct your story without dialogue and make it a complete story. Then add the dialogue in and have it do whatever you want, have it be about the characterisations and the emotion. Scene that turns on dialogue is weak scene, generally, to my mind. It's a pretty radical technique but it's worth a shot.

    Setting and narrative:
    The setting was interesting. But it was indistinct. I figured out where we were by your telling us, and I got an image of where we were but it wasn't particularly vivid. I think if you cut down on the dialogue you could use that space to open the atmosphere, the ambience and more 'on the body' sensation of where they at. As it is, as interesting as the setting sounded, I wasn't immersed enough to really enjoy it. Look at entry three's carnival to see it done really, really well.

    Copy-edit and prose:
    The source of the confusion in a lot of this story is your over-wrought prose. I'll only use one example. Let's look at your opening lines:

    Your opening line needs to be the strongest line in your piece. It's what decides much of the reception, as much as anything cognitive happening in your audience. One thing to avoid in particular is choppy sentence structure. Another thing in particular to avoid is a simile or a metaphor in your opening line unless that is the entirety of your opening line. And we're not greats, your metaphor probably isn't worth it.

    Two images is a lot of work for a reader to do in the initial stage setting. Frankly, you've got too much going on here, and none of it terribly precise. Then you go on to this utterly incomprehensible sentence. Maybe it's cus I'm tired, but even now I can't make head nor tail of it. You need to get someone to read your work or you need to give it four days and come back to it and read it aloud. Every word. And see if you can say it with that many commas or if it sounds like you have a stutter. If you sound like you have a stutter, change the sentence.

    General Opinion:

    Unsure how to score this. I think I'm going to have to give it 18.5 zucchinis out of 42.

    I think that ultimately a promising setting is let down by the quality of the prose, and the confusing narration, over-used dialogue and poor pacing up to a promising resolution that rests on an unexciting crisis, to its misfortune.

    Grammarly tells me I'm three parts disapproving to one part confident and one part sad. I apologise. Your story would be decent with a decent proof-reading, but in the context of the competition, it's not a winner for me. It's better than the vast majority of fanfiction I read, no doubt. And you made a compelling effort for the prompt and round. I commend you.
     
  6. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

    Joined:
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    I imagine that the setting you visualised when writing this was really interesting. It comes across in parts of this story, I likes the castle in the jungle and the Death Eaters trying to navigate an unfamiliar culture. It felt authentic.

    However I think the story's main issue is that you fail to establish key aspects of the setting, charecters, positioning motivations etc. It's okay to leave some of this ambiguous when building intrige and mystery, but too much leads to confusion and disengagement. This problem is made worse by rambling sentence structures which can be hard to follow.

    For example:


    Problems:
    - Your perspective changes from Selwyn, resisting the urge to cast a fire charm, to Avery's inner thoughts and back again without adds towarning which adds to the confusion.

    - I cannot follow Avery's line of thinking here. Voldemort needs these people, but he has never lost a duel, but he would come himself, but Avery does not know why and thinks it might be a test of loyalty?

    - His entire train of thought is confusingly written. There is no logical progression from one topic to the other.

    He is like to believe I at least know the truth of it. I am nearly as old as the Lord Voldemort himself, the last surviving relic of his school days. His transformation has been as great as it has been terrible; even our old friend Mulciber was nothing to him the moment his disloyalty was revealed.

    Personally I would tweak it to focus on the topic at hand:

    He believes I know our true purpose, serving as I have since before our Lord took the name Voldemort. Truth be told our school days mean little to him. His transformation has been great as it has been terrible; even our old friend Mulciber was nothing to him the moment his disloyalty was revealed




    This is also difficult to follow, is he annoyed that the Burmese wizards hide their homes from guests? Why? What is a test? The task set by Voldemort or the discovery of the castle entrance?


    This is indicative of the whole story. You have a good turn of phrase, but I think you are approaching the writing down of what you envision a little wrong. You have to think of the information that needs to be established for the reader to understand what is going on. You don't have to spell out every action, but there needs to be something.

    It is a good effort though. I would encourage you to keep practicing, there is talent here.
     
  7. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    Joined:
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    The Beginning is Paramount.

    Almost from the first line, I wanted to stop reading. I was confused by how this was written, and at first I thought that Selwyn was the PoV character given his name is mentioned first. That it was, in fact, Avery, took me more than a few rereads to fully grasp. Having such an ambiguous opening is no good.

    Further, it was not a compelling start.

    You always want to put your best foot forward at the start of the story in order to hook your readers, but there wasn't a whole lot here. We don't learn anything in particular about the characters, the setting, or the plot. What we get instead is a description of what they're doing (not terribly interesting at that), and Avery's opinion of Selwyn. Not a great start, that.

    Technical Writing is the bare minimum you need to grasp.

    Incorrect use of dialogue tags. Should be commas, not periods, when you're ending dialogue and modifying it with said, muttered, shouted, etc.

    Never mix the dialogue of one character with the thoughts of another. It adds to the confusion of readers. Any of character's actions, thoughts, and dialogue should be kept to their own paragraph. The only exception to this is if another character is observing or commenting on the actions of another either in thought or speech.

    Characterization is crucial.

    Selwyn's betrayal is unearned. There's literally not setup for it, and doesn't make any sense from what we've seen in the story.

    The not so climatic climax.

    Finally we get to the end. It was wholly underwhelming, not only because the betrayal did not make sense, but also because it happened so quickly that I didn't even notice it happening. Perhaps it's because I simply didn't get this story (I was confused through the entirety).
     
  8. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Joined:
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    The first paragraph confused me. I thought we were going to be in Selwyn's POV, since you start with him, but then the bit about him being a score or so younger made me think we were in a different POV which references Avery's son, and finally leads me into thinking I'm in Avery's POV. But by this point I'm frustrated. And the first paragraph is not a good place to frustrate your reader.

    From there we get into the italics bit which is phrased a little awkwardly. It also reads like an info dump - it doesn't feel 'natural' that Avery's thoughts are wandering off into a monologue about how old he is.

    That doesn't mean the information isn't good, useful, interesting, and fitting - it just means that it was provided in what I'd consider a clunky fashion. You want the reader to have that information, I agree it's interesting information, but you didn't find an interesting way to deliver it to me where it felt relevant.

    His thoughts in general seem to often be info-dumps, actually. Telling us a lot instead of showing us.

    Also some words that I'd personally call extraneous floating around. "The spirit seemed to have disappeared" could just be "The spirit disappeared" and so on.

    The above criticisms follow throughout the story, so I'll stop harping on them here.

    The story itself is interesting enough, though a hair hard to follow. Selwyn, Avery, and his son are summoning someone/something in order to assist the Dark Lord. He used an old Welsh spell to accomplish this. But it's hard not to skim, if I'm honest. I feel like I'm being told all these things that are happening and what is going on, but I'm not experiencing it and my eyes keep trying to jump ahead to find something to latch onto.

    I'm not sure where we are - though that may be my fault if I simply missed it.

    These people they are talking to are clearly not British though, so I am on board with this being a foreign magical area.

    In fact, here's where my eyes stopped and you had my attention:
    There was little the Dark Lord had told them, and little of it was of any use at all. His exact words were 'There is a master of a secret art in a jungle about three miles east of Zaungtu, a village north of Yangon.

    I feel like I finally have some clue what's going on.

    In addition, you did a nice job of pairing together the concept of how LV can't be in two places at once with the fact that this wizard they went to meet can DO EXACTLY THAT.

    Well done on that bit, well done indeed. I didn't expect it at all and yet when it happened it made perfect sense.


    But overall I had trouble getting into this and not skimming, despite the concept being overall fine.
     
  9. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Fifth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    142
    I was more than a little lost reading this story. I was having a lot of trouble picturing what was going on, following who was saying what, and understanding why I should care about their actions and words.

    I think the best piece of advice I can give you is to slow down. Pull a novel off your bookshelf, read the first few pages, and notice how the author builds each new sentence so that it’s related/connected to the last. The author takes a moment to orient the reader and establish who the protagonist is and what their motivations are.

    Another thing you should take note of is that novelists very rarely italicize their characters’ thoughts. Sure, they do it sometimes, but it’s rare. I know you know how to distill Avery’s thoughts into exposition, because I see you do it throughout the story.

    Also, your prose is very dense. There’s a rule that if a paragraph requires a lot of concentration, the reader’s eyes just start to glaze over. For example, I had to read this sentence four times before I understood it:
    First of all, there’s a lot going on here, and second of all, you’re not using names (“the other Death Eater,” “the native,” “an old wizard”) which makes it very difficult for me to parse out who you’re talking about.

    Let’s talk about epithets for a second. I know it may feel creative to use phrases like “the aged servant of the Dark Lord” and “the red-robed wizard,” but in reality it’s confusing and feels stilted. If you know a person’s name, use their name. That’s a very important rule in fiction writing.

    As for punctuation, you’re not using the correct grammar for dialogue. This is how you wrote it in your story:
    But this is the correct format (comma, instead of a period, before the close quote):
    I will say — and I’m sorry it took me a while to get to this — I loved the idea of magic that duplicates a person. I loved the ritual you created to conjure it, and I loved how you foreshadowed it in the third paragraph of the story. If I were you, I would rework the story to explore this idea a lot more.

    In conclusion, I think you’ve just got to read more fiction and continue to practice writing. As you do, you’ll learn and grow, and your writing will improve. I found a line in your story that, whether intentional or not, seems to speak to your philosophy about fiction writing:
    That’s kind of how I felt reading your story — the characters’ motivations were never really explained to me. I was either expected to just naturally understand them, or I had to expend some intense concentration in order to parse it out.

    But when someone’s telling me a story, it shouldn’t feel like work to follow what’s going on.
     
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