Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Aegidius Draft

I'll slowly be putting up rough draft chapters at http://scion-of-lykaios.blogspot.com/. While I'll be writing every day, I'll only be posting as chapters are finished.

Capitulum Primum: Wherein we meet the Wolf of Wolves
http://scion-of-lykaios.blogspot.com/2011/11/capitulum-primum.html

10 comments:

  1. Baduin1:34 PM

    1. The protagonist seems to be an emotionless robot. Modern people tend to be a bit robotic, of course; but a werewolf candidate shouldn't be THAT modern; anyway, anyone would be in a panic; and this is emotion. He seems to be somewhat brave - he should feel anger. In fact, he attacks a dangerous, supernatural monster; he must be in a transport of rage to do such a thing at all. She was his girlfriend - shouldn't he be a bit sad?

    Werewolves are nothing if not emotional; a rationalizating robot is a pretty poor excuse for a werewolf.

    This fragment could have been written by Lawrence Watt-Evans, the specialist in putting modern SWPL in the most unlikely situations - to which they seem barely able to pay any attention at all, being probably more interested (off screen) in the new functions of their I-phone. Perhaps I am unfair - but they certainly always react with the utmost rationality, no emotion, enlightened self-interest and universal benevolence. They would make pretty poor werewolves, too.

    2. The book is about werewolves; they therefore should be impressive; the first appearance of the werewolf should have proper build-up. It is done here simply as a bit of necessary explanation, or even back story; there is no impact.

    Compare the revelation of the ghoul in Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model"
    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/pm.asp

    Perhaps the climax of the scene should be pushed back; start with the awakening after the bite, and slowly built up the tension until the hero remembers the confrontation with the monster.

    It is even more so since werewolves are so overused; putting a werewolf from the central casting into a (pretty abstract and inconcrete) forest is hardly worth the effort.

    3. Precise Rules, Technical Terms, Allegiances etc are perfectly good for RPG Games - and for mechanical werewolves. The purpose of werewolves is NOT to be precise, technical and mechanical; if werewolves are not ambiguous, unclear, ill-defined, then what is?

    4. The most counterproductive advice to writers is "Show, not tell". Writers, obviously, cannot show, and should they try, they will fail - badly. That is, I think, the reason for interminable books in which nothing happens, because the author feels the need to write down full inventories of every room the character visits, etc. This is even more so in horror stories, in which the main threat should NOT be shown. However, there is a real principle which this sentence fails to convey. It has been shown quite well by Ford Madox Ford in Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance
    http://www.noumenal.com/marc/jcfmf/personal/personal.html

    Conrad's function in "The Inheritors" as it to-day stands was to give to each scene a final tap; these, in a great many cases, brought the whole meaning of the scene to the reader's mind. Looking through the book the writer comes upon instance after instance of these completions of scenes by a speech of Conrad's. (...)
    If the reader asks how the writer identifies which was his writing and which Conrad's in a book nearly twenty-five years old, the answer is very simple. Partly the writer remembers. This was the only scene in the book at which we really hammered away for any time and the way we did it is fresh still in his mind. Partly it is knowledge; Conrad would never have written "a very old man" or "almost." He would have supplied an image for the old man's nose and would have given him an exact age, just as he had to precise the fact that Halderschrodt had shot himself, and through the left temple at that"

    In other words, NOT show, but SUGGEST that you have shown - by giving some telling detail, some sensory impression - not only sight, but also sound, smell, temperature, wind, humidity.

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  2. branemrys3:11 PM

    No doubt all good points in some contexts, but:

    (1) You are assuming he is the protagonist -- incorrectly, as it happens, and first appearances are deliberately deceiving, but you wouldn't know that, would you, having only one chapter to go on?

    (2) You are assuming that the book is itself about werewolves rather than a story building on werewolf imagery. And in any case I have no particular obligation to write werewolves the way you want them written.You can like them or hate them, but you aren't writing them here.

    (3) You don't know anything definite about any rules or alliances yet; all you have is what you've briefly overheard in a conversation from someone you don't know much about -- who is already shown to be willing to deceive, for that matter.

    (4) This is explicitly a rough draft to get the story down; but I'm inclined to think in any case that you are wrong on this point. It's simple nonsense to think that stories need to fill in, even if only by suggestion, large portions of the canvas. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not; whichever this in particular is is will be determined on later revision. Lecturing me as if this were being put forward as a serious finished product rather than as a game and draft is, frankly, absurd.

    (5) There is, in short, something very irritating about someone jumping in to criticize a story before it is written or they know where anything is going. Let me do my work; then you can evaluate. Trying to shut it down while I'm in the middle of writing it is just tacky -- and what is more, it is not playing according to the rules of the game.

    In short, hold your horses before telling me what I'm doing wrong. I have no doubt there's lots, since I'm quite literally throwing it together as part of a NaNoWriMo-inspired game; but I deny outright that you are in a position to say much on the subject yet, having as you do nothing more than a single chapter in an explicit first thrown-together draft.

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  3. branemrys5:23 PM

    Incidentally, the Ford Madox Ford quote about Conrad strikes me as somewhat absurd if taken literally and without qualification; Conrad throughout his work uses 'almost' constructions (quite a bit, actually), and he uses constructions like 'very old' quite a bit, too. He just doesn't, over the whole of a work, rely on them alone. There's no question Conrad does descriptive precision in a masterly way, true nonpareil; but the comment has to be read with precision as well: it's about the passage in question, not about general principles, and it is about Conrad in particular, not about authors in general (obviously, in fact, since Ford Madox Ford is highlighting a contrast with Conrad; and while it is certainly true that Conrad is the better at description, this doesn't tell us much about general principles).

    Regardless, if you're expecting Conrad, you're in the wrong place, I'll warn you right here at the beginning.

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  4. Catherine Hodge9:36 PM

    Huzzah for the wolves!

    I'm eager to read this, but now, like the big sucker I am, I've taken the NaNoWriMo plunge myself and am slogging through my own wad of prose. Why? I don't know where I'm going or why I've picked this story, but I can't let all you writer people have all the fun.

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  5. Catherine Hodge9:39 PM

    Did you end up registering at the NaNoWriMo site? 

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  6. branemrys9:43 PM

    No; I think I'm taking this year as a testing the water thing, since it's my first time, and November's always busy for me.

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  7. branemrys10:02 PM

    I saw that! It's a good start. And you're right that the thing is to have fun: it's a game. The goal is not to write; the goal is to play, and writing's just the means in this particular case. Impromptu drama, but on paper. I'm definitely looking forward to reading yours.

    Besides, good stories are like cities: you have to get lost in them before you come to really know them.

    Looking back the Wolves were probably the right choice at this point; I won't kick myself if I mangle the story by the midpoint, but I think it will be a fun venue for trying some things out.

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  8. Catherine Hodge7:40 AM

    Well, unlike our critic below, I read it and was entertained, and I say that with all compliment. It's fast-paced, slyly amusing (I like the cheerful, outdoorsy Joanne, what little we see of her) and engaging, and I'm looking forward to following the story. And I'm intrigued by the mysterious Mr. Scott.

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  9. Baduin1:04 PM

    This seems to be the case of mutual misunderstanding, for which I am at fault.

    First of all, my post seems to critize the first chapter of your book. This was by no means my intention; however, I inexcusably failed to say first of all that the beginning of your tale is written very well and in a very good style, is fast paced, lively, and at the same time quite vivid, so that the reader seems to be in the middle of the action.

    You write:"<span>I deny outright that you are in a position to say much on the subject yet, having as you do nothing more than a single chapter in an explicitly first thrown-together draft." (...)
    </span>

    "<span>There's no question Conrad does descriptive precision in a masterly way, true nonpareil; but the comment has to be read with precision as well: it's about the passages in question, not about general principles, and it is about Conrad in particular, not about authors in general (obviously, in fact, since Ford Madox Ford is highlighting a contrast with Conrad; and while it is certainly true that Conrad is the better at description, this doesn't tell us much about general principles).  
     
    Regardless, if you're expecting Conrad, you're in the wrong place, I'll warn you right here at the beginning."</span>

    I must say that your first draft is much better written than a lot of books to be found in bookstores; despite your deprecations to the contrary, your descriptions have a lot in common with Conrad. You give enough detail to make the scene vivid, and at the same time you are very far from the common modern fault I described earlier, and do not try to imitate the cinema and describe every detail that can be shown on screen.

    I, on my side, made two mistakes:
    First of all, it seemed to me that you have posted the first draft of your work in order to gather opinions which could be used in the work on the second draft. It is obviously not the case - in fact, I had no good reason to consider it to be so - and therefore I can only ask you to forgive my unwanted and unasked for comments.

    Secondly, I - in view of your undoubted talent, and our earlier discussion - thought that you wanted to write something more than one more work in the werewolf genre - which lately grew very popular.

    I think namely that popular literature in general tends to engage with topics much more weighty and important than so-called "serious" literature. The best proof of that is that the popular literature meets with widespread interest in the various social groups, and the serious literature is read only by a small group of people, who have to put a lot of effort into developing the taste for it, and very often read it not for pleasure, but in order to improve themselves or as status symbol.

    While problems and symbols found in the popular literature are of enormous importance, and allow to understand the spirit of the time when it was written, its literary merit is generally only slight. Most authors repeats the traditional archetypical scheme - which is the reason for the popularity and importance of a given genre, without putting any effort into either understanding it and its wider implications, or developing it.  The style, and other aspects of literature which are of no importance for the reading public tend to suffer.

    You, therefore, judged my intentions rightly when you wrote: "Y<span>ou are assuming that the book is itself about werewolves rather than a story building on werewolf imagery. And in any case I have no particular obligation to write werewolves the way you want them written.You can like them or hate them, but you aren't writing them here."</span>

    I indeed thought to persuade you to put some effort into considering [...]

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  10. branemrys2:16 PM

    Baduin,

    I understand. I do intend at some point to revise it, and feedback is welcome. It's just that some kinds of criticisms are not necessarily helpful when I'm literally in the middle of actually writing the first draft, and on a timetable at that.

    Also, while it needs finetuning for this purpose, the first chapter is partly deliberate smoke and mirrors; hence my loud insistence on waiting before evaluation. The basic story idea is straightforward, but the narrative itself won't be linear.

    I do suspect, though, that there will be stretches of the book that will be rather emotionally flat, just from the circumstances under which it is being written. That will certainly require revision, although how much I don't know; the core of the werewolf for this book is not emotion but irrationality or perhaps better, arationality -- the madness of the moon in a rational animal. How well that will turn out in the sort of narrative I have in mind is another question; I don't know myself yet.

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