The Nameless Evil pt 2 by Mizu Ash

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Post October 29, 2005, 12:37:03 PM

The Nameless Evil pt 2 by Mizu Ash

I've been mulling this one over for a week now, trying to figure out what I was going to say about it.<br><br><br>I still don't know.<br><br><br>I'd like to think I have a little skill in critiquing, but I'm coming up empty. It's a story about characters created and trying to exist in an extremely rough first draft, so the rating system I use goes out the window. <br><br>The tale as written is obscure & jerky--but on purpose, which implies a level of professionalism I was surprised at, and is opposite of what it appears.<br><br>The setting is in constant flux, so it's not real to me--but, again, it isn't meant to be. It does get more concrete in spots and as it progresses, but not enough that it ever becomes real or coherent in my head.<br><br>Trying to figure out the character arcs here gives me a headache. Obviously, Nat struggled with his love for Kate, and chose to do use his gift of understanding to defeat the nameless evil, but this is not really the main storyline, or is it? The characters have to adapt and change as their reality keeps changing during their forced march to the Nameless Evil, and I think that is what this story is really about. But the characters keep changing who they are! I can't figure them out!<br><br>Kate going on strike was brilliant... and ridiculous at the same time. [Ow! My head!] Stu throwing himself into the well was a beautiful example of the creative process and how authors are often surprised at what pours out of their subconscious minds--but in terms of the storyline was pointless and counterproductive--and fabulous for character development at the same time. <br><br>[For Original Star Trek fans: Illogical. Illogical. Norman, please co-ordinate.]<br><br>The author crosses over into the text of the book and becomes a character. Suddenly, a god who has ultimate control of his universe is put in his place by a mere figment of his imagination. Is this a representation of the conflict in the author's own mind? Is it some sort of statement about the creative process, especially in inexperienced authors? Is it something about the level of cognizance in youth--a lot of teenage authors will do this sort of thing, without realizing it will never, ever, sell. (I did it myself, when I was 14. My book was all over the place in plot and characterization, and I put myself in it at one point. AND IT DIDN'T SELL!)<br><br>On the point of whether or not does this plot hold together and ring true, of course not--but it doesn't seem to be supposed to.<br><br>Finally, I'm left with the ultimate measure: did I like it?<br><br>No.<br><br>Why? I don't know! <br><br>There were very, very good bits next to terrible ones. There was good commentary about character and the creative process married with examples of how not to do it.<br><br>Maybe it's that the story within the story is just... not very good. These characters march through a series of oddly jumbled together challenges before facing off against a villain so undefined its the Nameless Evil. In that story, we're shown glimpses of what it would be like for characters to exist in such a universe, as if it were real (or as real as it gets).<br><br>Maybe it's because I don't write like this. I don't fit in a loose outline of scenes and then go back and fill in the story later. I start with a more or less finished scene, full descriptives and dialogue in place (even if I don't know who these characters are yet), and then progress from there as if it's a finished story up to the point that there there aren't any more words written. I have an idea of a goal, and will wind up somewhere close to that goal, but it flows wherever the story takes it. Many authors, however, do write like this, and there's nothing wrong with that--but it seems alien and strange to me.<br><br>Maybe it's literary, and I'm just hopelessly a genre writer. Beats me, or maybe mocks me. I don't know which.<br><br><br>Anyhow, I don't know if any of this was useful as a critique, but I felt I had to say something after commenting on the 1st half last month. Perhaps another can put a better finger on it.<br><br>Nate
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Post October 30, 2005, 02:04:32 PM

Re: The Nameless Evil pt 2 by Mizu Ash

Hi Nate,<br><br>Thank you for reading the story and writing such a long critique, especially since you didn't like the story! I don't know how to reply really, but I'll have a go.<br><br>This is the longest thing I've ever written. It's close to 30 000 words, and I'm happy just from the fact I finished the bloody thing! It started as an idea for something quite short: a plain spoof of fantasy: it had Midnight Revelations and Unrequited love and "Oh no, that's a Sequel at the Horizon" at the ending, all the clichés of fantasy really. An Intrepid Little Band Saving the World. And when I started writing it, it changed! It usually does, when I write. 'Voodoo child', a rather grim story I wrote for Aphelion, started off as a happy, carefree story. The final version ended with suicide and thoughts of abortion! <br>You said you don't write the way it is described in the story, but for me this actually comes close to the way I write: a rough idea and a couple of characters. I write in a patchy way, and then go back and fill in the 'blanks', so to say. And just like the writer in the story, I'm not much good at description. So I left that open in this story on purpose. <br><br>A point you raised after the first half, was that it was difficult to build endearment for the characters: Stu changing from a friendly trekkie nerdie into a handsome man. That surprised me, because for me they are one and the same. Stu in nice clothes is still a Trekkie, only without the costume. I wanted these characters to be the same as they were before, just with more details. I must have done something wrong there, if that didn't come across. <br><br>The character of the author was not meant as a comment on inexperienced writers. I wanted to exaggerate the effect that you do get when you are writing: you get an interaction between writers and characters, I think. MY characters, at least, are not very obedient! The fact that he actually appears in the story, was just the immersion you get when you are really on a roll, writing. <br><br>In this story I did want to say a few things about writing in general, and writing fantasy in particular. The comments Kate makes about women in fantasy come from my own opinion, although she exaggerates them a bit. (Of course good fantasy did change all that decades ago). What I really wanted to do in the story, especially at the ending, was keep wrongfooting the reader. Cliché fantasy is a bit predictable, and I wanted to do that differently. It seems, from your critique, I did that to an unhealthy degree! <br><br>You surprised me by saying this story looks literary. I do come from literature, actually. I read Shakespeare and George Orwell, naturalistic novels and symbolism when I was 15 or 16, and only started reading Stephen King when I was 21 and in my final year at university(studying language and literature)! Science fiction and fantasy had to wait even longer. Now I like genre fiction and literature. I must say that in speculative fiction I often prefer the more 'literary' novels (William Gibson springs to mind), and in literature I usually like the novels with a strong imaginative side, such as Jeanette Winterson and Haruki Murakami. Social realism is not for me any more, nor are the cliché fantasy novels (I quit reading Terry Goodkind when Richard became a Messiah!). Anyway, to cut a long story short: I thought my story was straightforward 'genre', but reading your critique and rethinking the story, it probably isn't! I think you're right, it has a bit of a literary angle, for better or for worse!<br><br>Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if you didn't like it, that's absolutely fine by me. I really appreciate your taking the time to write down your feelings about it! English is not my own language, and I must say I'm always surprised when nobody comments on the language in my stories! I've said this before in the lettercol: I always used to get ideas for stories, but I never did anything with them. Since I found Aphelion, at least I work on one of these ideas, once in a while! (Thank you, Dan!)<br><br>Nate, thank you again, and good luck with your own stories, <br><br>Mizu<br>
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Post November 04, 2005, 01:41:49 PM

Re: The Nameless Evil pt 2 by Mizu Ash

Deus ex machina stories are difficult to write. I know, I’ve attempted a few and understand quite well the difficulties involved. What makes this one a bit different from others in the same vein is its manner of execution. The characters are involved in the formative phase of the writing process. That makes it extraordinarily difficult to decipher between Mizu the experienced writer and Nat the neophyte writer. As I said in my critique of part one, therein lies the potential trap. And this isn’t the mousetrap variety that bruises your finger. We’re talking a gaping-maw-opening-to-the-depths-of-Tartarus type of trap. With Nat’s obvious lack of skill in some regards, how does one know it’s not Mizu that’s lacking?<br><br>Let me start off by listing Nat’s problems as a writer. Some of these are explicitly detailed by Mizu, so don’t mistake this as Mizu’s problems (i.e., it’s meant to be like this). First, Nat does not understand plotting. The story within the story is a rambling, incoherent series of events. The characters have been thrust together for no apparent reason. There is a lack of world building that’s key to fantasy. Nat relies heavily on fantasy archetypes when it comes to women and children. He has other issues, including GSP and POV mistakes.<br><br>Now let’s ignore everything above in order to get to Mizu’s writing. We can’t blame everything on Nat.<br><br>There are many instances of telling versus showing. This dilutes the impact of some scenes, the most apparent and tragic at the end, where the story would have been more effective if it concluded with the defeat of the Nameless Evil. Instead, we get a long discussion between Nat and Kate explaining what happened. Then we have the writer-characters interaction which explains things further. And then we have the writer-Stuart conversation for further explanation. Enough! Ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of forcing readers to your point of view, let them walk away with their own perspective, at least on some things.<br><br>Here is a prime example. There is a lengthy discussion between Nat and Kate about the nature of predestination and the fairness of life. These are some pretty hefty themes, made more glaring by the deus ex machina backdrop. Then the event of Stuart’s death occurs, and suddenly we have parallels between the writer God and God of our universe. Some powerfully philosophical and theological questions arise. The story suddenly transcends the story within the story. My interest as a reader and as a writer picks up.<br><br>Only to be utterly ruined later on by the appearance of Nat the writer explaining that he didn’t mean to do it. Bunnies. The real solution was bunnies.<br><br>Ugh.<br><br>Also, as to Nat the writer claiming innocence for Stuart’s death, I’m calling bull**** on that one. How do you have your characters go into a lengthy debate about life and fate, heroism and cowardice, and then not see Stuart’s death coming? If he didn’t plan it, it sure was wedged in his subconscious.<br><br>I’m looking over this critique, and it seems a bit harsh, because there is wonderful potential here and more than a few moments of skilled writing. I suppose I’m a bit disappointed in how it came together, investing my time as a reader. Finally, at the risk of appearing egocentric, I will quote myself from the first story, since I think this is what ultimately failed for me:<br><br>
There comes a point where the characters have to evolve and the plot has to gel. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in part 2.
<br>Due to Nat’s limitations as a writer, that never truly happens. He claims that it’s a good story, celebrating with fictional champagne.<br><br>The truth is that it’s not.<br>
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