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Fic Pick of the Week (December 4th)

 
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J. D. Ford
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Joined: 20 Sep 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:57 am    Post subject: Fic Pick of the Week (December 4th) Reply with quote

Ahoy! Not sure why I said that, but it seemed appropriate at the time...which is now 3:54 AM.

*bong*

Welcome to the HBOFF Fan Fic(tion) Pick of the Week (FFPotW, or FPotW, or whatever the hell you wanna call it...just stay away from HBOFFPotW, ‘cause that’s crazy long). Um. Yeah. So…without further ado (and because I can’t think of anything clever to say) let’s take a look at our submissions this week, and the pseudo-winners. Why do I call them that? What a stupid thought-question. Isn’t it obvious? Everyone’s a winner here at HBOFF! Even if you’re a loser.


Honorable Mention: Project Myrmidon- Prologue, Part 1 by spartan shot

Quote:
My first story for non-video game purposes. Please comment.

I understand why you’d want to state this up front, but try to refrain from using such author’s notes. Let the story stand on its own two feet, or fall from them. It can be painful, but you’ll learn a lot either way, and you won’t have to deal with someone else questioning the need for an author’s note in their comments. Also, asking for comments isn’t necessarily the best way to get them...and you’ll probably hear about it from some sarcastic-type person who disagrees with author’s notes on principle.

Razz

Now. On to the pertinent stuff. Blocks of text. Don’t do it. Please. It’s hard to read. Use spaces or [indent] tags for new paragraphs.

This is well-written. I like your narrative voice very much. It’s efficient and effective. You don’t waste words describing the action. I’m not sure why you decided to shift from 3rd person POV to 1st person, but that’s your call. It was a little jolting, but not a deal-breaker (for me, at least). Watch out for incomplete or incorrect words (for example, using “fit” instead of “fitting” to describe something that is ironic or comparatively significant).

I liked your portrayal of ONI brass. I liked the fact that the DeCorzo character pitied Parangosky’s grandchildren (very amusing, BTW). Parangosky seems to be a popular character in fan fiction of late, though I suppose Nylund’s original description was chilling enough to cause a ripple effect.

However, I do have one reservation about the same scene (and this is very closely related to the same problem I had with Jake Trommer’s piece). The meeting where the Myrmidon project is introduced starts well enough, but starts to go downhill when the POV character criticizes Ackerson and Ackerson retorts like a petulant child. Your realism went out the window right around that point. Having DeCorzo argue with Ackerson in front of the whole bloody ONI command infrastructure is just a little unbelievable. And you spend some time simply restating what’s been said in the published novels. Sometimes without changing much of the original wording. The last few paragraphs devolved into “I did this, I did that” sentences that did nothing but make me lose interest. Yes, you left a hook at the end by mentioning Fhajad, but if you don’t approach that teaser effectively it won’t do its job. The reader won’t want to tackle your next chapter.

I see a lot of potential here. You just need to be careful of losing too much steam as you approach the end of each submission. That may mean you need to more carefully outline or plan each chapter. Or not. I’m not sure what your writing style is. All I can say is keep at it. You have a lot of talent. I’ll make the same suggestion I’m going to make to Ren_or_Robertlouisstevenson later in this review...read some good science fiction. But rather than reading it for pleasure, read it to study how stories are structured effectively. How storytelling works on a fundamental level. That’s the best way to learn the intricacies of the craft.


Tied for Second Place: What once was Ours, chapter 3 by Jake Trommer and The Deal, Parts 1 and 2* by Slaskia

[*Note: I am combining the latter into one review for the purposes of brevity.]


What once was Ours, chapter 3
Hocus Pocus… Okay, lots of interesting stuff going on in this series. It’s a post-Halo 3 story with obvious departures from canon (which thankfully don’t detract from the quality of the writing or reader enjoyment), as well as excellent formatting. The dialogue—for the most part—is well-written and believable, the exception being much of the banter between high-ranking officers in this update’s midsection. It feels...off. Informal or cliché or both, and very hard to pin down, actually. That’s really the only rough spot in this piece, aside from a handful of spelling errors, and some…drama. And by drama I’m referring to an unexpected focus on internal politics and rank squabbles. Not something one usually finds in a Halo fanfic, and I applaud Trommer for attempting to showcase it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ring 100% true. I think the mood needs to be dialed back a bit. The extremes are just too…extreme (and yes, I’m fully aware of the context).

Trommer has a good handle on his characters and it really shows. (Especially in the Hocus/Shilds/Agathon interactions, though I always read ‘Shilds’ as ‘Shields,’ for some reason. Whatever.)

A solid series despite a few minor flaws, and obviously (well) written with a great deal of thought and effort. Keep it up.


The Deal - pt 1 & The Deal - Part 2
If only Charlton Heston had hooves… Yeah, that was a reference to epic historical dramas. Why? This polished story seems to have more in common with Spartacus than not (yes, I know Kirk Douglas was in Spartacus, not Charlton Heston...shut up). And that’s a compliment, by the way. (I’m not talking about story or structure, or even characterization…just scope.)

Great formatting, Slaskia. I’m not sure if you’ve posted here before, but you seem to know what you’re doing (or took the time to make sure you did it right, which amounts to the same thing). That’s a welcome rarity.

This being a detailed (quasi-historical fiction) Sangheili-centered tale, it may not appeal to all readers. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading, however. In fact, it’s refreshing to see someone focus on Elite culture from their own creative perspective, and do it well. There is so much packed into these two sections that I have a hard time addressing it here. The character development, in particular, is outstanding. The only real negative is the same detail that makes this story stand out in a positive light. There's a lot to take in, and it's a somewhat unfamiliar setting. Alien characters are difficult to write, and can be difficult to read about...simply because they are not human. Communicating that fundamental difference is tricky, because you almost have to humanize them to make them accessible for the reader. Slaskia succeeds in doing this, but it makes the reading a bit on the heavy side. Let me simply say that the time and effort that must have gone into this is clearly evident. I am interested to see what you come up with in the future.


Fan Fic Pick of the Week: Veracity: The End by Shurmantor the Destructor

(Just kidding, Shurmanator…though I think many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor the day you wrote this mindbender.)

Kubrick, eat your heart out (no, really…eat your heart out): Very immediate. Very introspective. Very...unusual. In a good way, though I still feel a bit confused (thanks, Shurm).

Okay. My initial thoughts: I don’t really like the section headers. Don’t know why, I guess they’re just a little hard to read. You’ve got to get past all the damned arrows to get to relevant information (and, as a reader, I don’t really care about that information...it’s just there to let me know when and where I am; I care about what comes after that information). Moreover, if you aren’t really transitioning more than a few seconds or a short distance, it’s better to use three asterisks or some other chapter subdivision. Why? It’s more immediate. The reader isn’t thrown out of what’s going on by a time/date stamp. This is especially true in the case of this piece, where many sections are quite interrelated.

I applaud you for pushing the boundaries of HBOFF formatting to the limit.

You’re missing hyphenations in a number of compound words (including the first sentence of the piece). Watch out for that. Their absence will eventually add up and count against you. Also, watch out for other GPS issues. There are few in this piece, but when even the smallest error invades a particularly poignant line, it disrupts the overall effectiveness of your prose.

I loved the “I” / “This is not the path” bit. Very, very effective. Very well written. And less confusing. Yay!

Final thoughts: this is a very complex view of a twisted psyche, and we get to watch the downward spiral nearly in real time. Moreover, it introduces some truly fantastic original ‘hard’ science fiction in the classical tradition of Asimov, Clarke, Ellison, Bradbury, and others. It is hard to digest, despite being written in a direct fashion...which is often the mark of something worth reading. In this case, that’s definitely the truth.

I’d say that, like Phaedrus’s infamous Red, this could (and some might say should) be a standalone, original piece of science fiction. It’s that good, and with continued polishing it could be even better. Believe it.


The rest: Halo: Origins of Fate Chapter 1 A1 by Ren_or_Robotlouisstevenson

Quote:
[Some characters of this story are FURRY characters, You do not have to read this if you don't want to. Do not whine for me trying to mix two damn good Genres together. So please, sit back and enjoy the story if you wish to read on. Also, this is a resubmit, because My original post had the same title as someone else's story...]

Easy there, Sgt. Slaughter… Wow. I’ve gotta say I damn near stopped reading your submission right after that little foreword...and that would’ve been unfortunate, because you have a lot of obvious potential as a writer. Not sure if you were trying to be comical or sarcastic (or both), but it came off more like a general rebuke. Readers typically don’t like being rebuked before they’ve had a chance to sample your work. Just a thought.

Spell out numbers under 100 (e.g., “ninety-eight, ninety-nine, 100, ad infinitum”).

Watch the run-on sentences. You don’t want to sound like third-rate anime (at least, I hope you don’t want to sound like third-rate anime). And get a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and take a look at the section on comma usage. You’re often leaving them out where they need to be, and using too many where they don’t. And use your spell checker, please. In fact, read through your work before submitting it. The spell check feature in Word often misses stuff, and if you want to be taken seriously you need to do your best to eliminate grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

It’s a bit of extra work, but try formatting for HBOFF’s crazy submission protocol. In other words, either use the [indent] tag at the beginning of each new paragraph (including dialogue), or put a single space between new paragraphs and dialogue. Please. It’s hard to read huge blocks of text, and I have good eyesight.

Be sure to keep to one tense throughout the story. You switch between past and present a lot, and that’s just confusing for the reader. The same goes for POV, unless you decide to change it up with chapter subdivisions (i.e., shifting narrative focus to different characters).

Watch out for the insidious info dump. In this case, the introduction of various characters in your first huge (aforementioned) block of text. You just state their names and a few random facts, without framing it from Starsk’s observation. One moment he’s thinking about Brutes, the next your narrative voice is informing the reader that his wife and children died before abruptly transitioning to a description of his teammates. That’s jarring, and there are much better ways to introduce your characters. Simply having them speak up and then letting Starsk think about what they look like, or what they’re good at, is one way…though you have to balance it. Make it feel natural and not rushed.

You frequently have a character ramble on for a long paragraph, then state, “Greene said” after it. Break it up a little bit. And if they’re going to talk for a while, consider doing this (bear in mind that I’ve added single spaces to denote new paragraphs because this BBS doesn’t allow indenting):

Quote:
(From March to the Sea by David Weber and John Ringo)

She gestured at the low detail map, pointing at the far northern region of the huge continent they had been crossing and tracing the dividing mountain range Sen Kakai had called the Tarstens with a fingertip.

"These Boman are pretty much more of the same, but they seem to be distinct from them in several ways. The most obvious one, of course, is that they haven't found a way around the Tarstens—they seem to have hit the range and slid along it to the west, instead. They also seem to have started their migration somewhat later than the Kranolta, and their weaponry is significantly different. The Kranolta didn't have gunpowder, but at least some of these Boman use arquebuses, although I suppose they might have gotten them from trading with this area.

"Actually, the Boman—like the Kranolta—seem more like a loose confederation of tribes than anything we might call a unified force, and there appear to be varying levels of technology among different tribes….”

The red, bolded quotation mark beginning the third paragraph (and the LACK of a quotation mark at the end of the second) is a technique for starting a new paragraph without breaking a stream of dialogue. A lot of professional authors (like these guys) use it when explaining complex concepts in their work. It’s particularly useful in science fiction, but you’ve got to understand when to use it as much as how.

In fact, let me just finish by saying you need to crack open some of your favorite science fiction (if you don’t have any favorites, try starting with something like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card) and look at how various authors structure their storytelling. Look at how they arrange dialogue, interwoven with exposition. Look at how they introduce characters and keep them involved in conversations. In other words…study the people who do this for a living to best learn how to do it yourself. Who knows? You might end up in their shoes in a decade or so, if you really want to get into writing.

You have a gift for translating imagery in your head (or, more metaphysically, from your imagination) to written words. Your exposition (description) is actually quite good, when it’s not more complicated than it needs to be. Keep at it.


And that’s it for…er…last week. Sorry it took so long to get all this compiled, but I couldn’t get my thoughts in order over the weekend for some strange reason. If you find this Fic Pick lacking, consider that my excuse. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen this past update. Really good stuff rolling in. And if I didn’t give you a glowing review, exactly, consider this...if I were to simply pat you on the back and send you happily (deluded) on your way, how would that help you become a better writer? It wouldn’t. And that would make me a jackass. And I don’t like being a jackass. Thus, I am trying not to be a jackass. Follow my logic?

Now get out there and read/comment on these fine specimens.



Semper Scri, carry on.


~J. D.
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