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    Seeking some quick and easy feedback

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    Rohelf

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    Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  Rohelf on November 20th 2013, 6:16 pm

    Hey guys, I’m doing a writing workshop class this week and I’ve been getting a lot of useful feedback.  However, most of the people involved are alien to the genres we all love so much, and because of that, sometimes get confused by phrases and concepts that I look at and think, “How could you not get that?”  I thought I’d poll the CGC community on some of the things that threw the strangers in our world for a loop, to help me decide what really needs revision, and what would be over-explaining to the average reader of fantasy and sci-fi.

    *Important Note: This story takes place in a world where characters possess various superpowers.*

    1. If I tell you that a character is a “projective empath,” what do you think that means?  What can he do?

    2. Character A tackles and attacks Character B from behind.  B fights back: “…twisting her shoulders and flailing wildly with her legs.  She felt her heel connect, but the woman above her barely flinched, thrusting her palm against the small of her back.  This time <B> felt the jolt hit her.  She tried to yell, but only managed a strangled croak as her muscles spasmed and locked up again.”  What do you think just happened?  What did A do?

    3. Character C has been previously mentioned to have telekinetic abilities.  She is laying on the floor of the backseat of a car, with her hands and feet bound.  She looks under the seat in front of her and sees the pedals.  “Then she exhaled and slammed down the gas pedal with all her strength.”  How did she do it?

    4. Character D is injured.  Character E approaches:  “’Try to hold still,’ <E> instructed, placing a hand on <D’s> forehead.  ‘This will take a minute or two.’  <E> closed her eyes and spread her fingers, muttering softly to herself, then fell silent.”  A few lines of other dialogue pass, then E speaks again: “’Well, you haven’t got a concussion and you haven’t broken anything, although by all rights you should have.  You must be either uncannily lucky or extremely resilient.  Let <F> have a look at that big bruise on your left first.  I don’t like what I saw of it.’”  What do you think just happened?  What did E do?

    5. Character F is a friend of the injured D.  Upon seeing D in this condition, his immediate reaction is anger.  He expresses a desire to kill the person he believes to be responsible for hurting D.  Does that seem bizarre or excessive to you?  Is this a strange or unnatural reaction?

    All these things confused at least one of the "normal" folks.  If you can take a minute to give me your first, most basic thoughts on these items, and whether any of them threw you, it would be a great help (as well as an interesting social study).  Thanks so much!

    Drew.Rub

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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  Drew.Rub on November 21st 2013, 6:31 am

    Rohelf wrote:1. If I tell you that a character is a “projective empath,” what do you think that means?  What can he do?
    Possesses the ability to influence others emotional states

    Rohelf wrote:
    2. Character A tackles and attacks Character B from behind.  B fights back: “…twisting her shoulders and flailing wildly with her legs.  She felt her heel connect, but the woman above her barely flinched, thrusting her palm against the small of her back.  This time <B> felt the jolt hit her.  She tried to yell, but only managed a strangled croak as her muscles spasmed and locked up again.”  What do you think just happened?  What did A do?
    Since you used the word jolt, and without much other context, I deduce that <A> possesses some sort of electro-kinetic power and just stunned <B>.

    Rohelf wrote:
    3. Character C has been previously mentioned to have telekinetic abilities.  She is laying on the floor of the backseat of a car, with her hands and feet bound.  She looks under the seat in front of her and sees the pedals.  “Then she exhaled and slammed down the gas pedal with all her strength.”  How did she do it?
    Pushed the accelerator down with a TK press.  Not too hard to grasp this one.

    Rohelf wrote:
    4. Character D is injured.  Character E approaches:  “’Try to hold still,’ <E> instructed, placing a hand on <D’s> forehead.  ‘This will take a minute or two.’  <E> closed her eyes and spread her fingers, muttering softly to herself, then fell silent.”  A few lines of other dialogue pass, then E speaks again: “’Well, you haven’t got a concussion and you haven’t broken anything, although by all rights you should have.  You must be either uncannily lucky or extremely resilient.  Let <F> have a look at that big bruise on your left first.  I don’t like what I saw of it.’”  What do you think just happened?  What did E do?
    E possesses some ability to do a psychic medical diagnosis.  there's no indication she actually medically treated <D>, so it's not a supernatural healing ability.

    Rohelf wrote:
    5. Character F is a friend of the injured D.  Upon seeing D in this condition, his immediate reaction is anger.  He expresses a desire to kill the person he believes to be responsible for hurting D.  Does that seem bizarre or excessive to you?  Is this a strange or unnatural reaction?
    Understandable and not excessive, IMHO.  Typical initial human reaction, depending on <F>'s normal personality type.  I myself sometimes wonder how far I'd go against someone who hurt Danielle, or Winst, or any of my other friends.[/quote]

    ComiKate

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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  ComiKate on November 21st 2013, 8:33 am

    Rohelf wrote:1. If I tell you that a character is a “projective empath,” what do you think that means?  What can he do?
    Can force or manipulate people psychically to feel what he/she wants the person to feel.

    Rohelf wrote:2. Character A tackles and attacks Character B from behind.  B fights back: “…twisting her shoulders and flailing wildly with her legs.  She felt her heel connect, but the woman above her barely flinched, thrusting her palm against the small of her back.  This time <B> felt the jolt hit her.  She tried to yell, but only managed a strangled croak as her muscles spasmed and locked up again.”  What do you think just happened?  What did A do?
    Gave B an electric shock through her hand.

    Rohelf wrote:3. Character C has been previously mentioned to have telekinetic abilities.  She is laying on the floor of the backseat of a car, with her hands and feet bound.  She looks under the seat in front of her and sees the pedals.  “Then she exhaled and slammed down the gas pedal with all her strength.”  How did she do it?
    Using TK. (How could people not get this one?? Unless of course the TK had only been mentioned once before AND several pages ago; then the reader might not have remembered this character's special ability, especially if they're not used to a "superpower plot".)

    Rohelf wrote:4. Character D is injured.  Character E approaches:  “’Try to hold still,’ <E> instructed, placing a hand on <D’s> forehead.  ‘This will take a minute or two.’  <E> closed her eyes and spread her fingers, muttering softly to herself, then fell silent.”  A few lines of other dialogue pass, then E speaks again: “’Well, you haven’t got a concussion and you haven’t broken anything, although by all rights you should have.  You must be either uncannily lucky or extremely resilient.  Let <F> have a look at that big bruise on your left first.  I don’t like what I saw of it.’”  What do you think just happened?  What did E do?
    This reminds me of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, where certain characters could psychically "delve" a person, which meant discern their physical condition, including injuries, through supernatural or psychic powers. E "delved" D.

    Rohelf wrote:5. Character F is a friend of the injured D.  Upon seeing D in this condition, his immediate reaction is anger.  He expresses a desire to kill the person he believes to be responsible for hurting D.  Does that seem bizarre or excessive to you?  Is this a strange or unnatural reaction?
    It's perfectly natural providing the bond between them is very strong. A deep, intimate friendship, or love. Otherwise I'd say desiring to kill might be a bit excessive. Personally I only want to hurt perps if they've hurt people who are not in my intimate circle; in case of particularly vulnarable victims, like children or animals, I might desire to hurt really badly, perhaps even torture or maim. But killing (or rather the desire to!) I reserve only for the ones who dared to attack my loved ones (which includes close friends).

    Let us know whether this was helpful!

    mindspike
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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  mindspike on November 21st 2013, 6:27 pm

    Rohelf wrote:Hey guys, I’m doing a writing workshop class this week and I’ve been getting a lot of useful feedback.  However, most of the people involved are alien to the genres we all love so much, and because of that, sometimes get confused by phrases and concepts that I look at and think, “How could you not get that?”  I thought I’d poll the CGC community on some of the things that threw the strangers in our world for a loop, to help me decide what really needs revision, and what would be over-explaining to the average reader of fantasy and sci-fi.

    *Important Note: This story takes place in a world where characters possess various superpowers.*
    Before I give you feedback, let me challenge an assumption I see in your statement. "Concepts and phrases" that belong to a genre are interpreted differently based on the media of consumption. The reason that super powered fiction works well in a visual medium is that it provides an immediate universal reference (visual effect) for a phenomenon for which we possess the vocabulary but have no universal referent (super powers). Therefore, prose fiction must take care to correctly introduce non-universal phenomenon even when the intended audience is expected to be familiar with the concepts and jargon associated with said phenomenon.

    Feedback is given from the standpoint of an editor reviewing the work for publication.

    Rohelf wrote:1. If I tell you that a character is a “projective empath,” what do you think that means?  What can he do?
    The phrase "projective empath" lacks context when divorced from the scene. This phrase should accompany further explanation or examples.

    Rohelf wrote:2. Character A tackles and attacks Character B from behind.  B fights back: “…twisting her shoulders and flailing wildly with her legs.  She felt her heel connect, but the woman above her barely flinched, thrusting her palm against the small of her back.  This time <B> felt the jolt hit her.  She tried to yell, but only managed a strangled croak as her muscles spasmed and locked up again.”  What do you think just happened?  What did A do?
    If the implication is that A used a super power, it provides context to say so in the description. A could just as easily have used a weapon. B could be responding to a previous injury. The existing description is unclear.

    Rohelf wrote:3. Character C has been previously mentioned to have telekinetic abilities.  She is laying on the floor of the backseat of a car, with her hands and feet bound.  She looks under the seat in front of her and sees the pedals.  “Then she exhaled and slammed down the gas pedal with all her strength.”  How did she do it?
    Without context, specific actions cannot be assumed from the existing text. C could have stretched to reach the pedal. She could have lunged for it with her whole body. The pedal could be within reach. She could have used super powers.

    Rohelf wrote:4. Character D is injured.  Character E approaches:  “’Try to hold still,’ <E> instructed, placing a hand on <D’s> forehead.  ‘This will take a minute or two.’  <E> closed her eyes and spread her fingers, muttering softly to herself, then fell silent.”  A few lines of other dialogue pass, then E speaks again: “’Well, you haven’t got a concussion and you haven’t broken anything, although by all rights you should have.  You must be either uncannily lucky or extremely resilient.  Let <F> have a look at that big bruise on your left first.  I don’t like what I saw of it.’”  What do you think just happened?  What did E do?
    E's action is not being described, although the lead-up to the action is described. It is unclear whether E is using ordinary medical skills, diagnosing from conversation, using super powers, or simply making an uninformed assertion.

    Rohelf wrote:5. Character F is a friend of the injured D.  Upon seeing D in this condition, his immediate reaction is anger.  He expresses a desire to kill the person he believes to be responsible for hurting D.  Does that seem bizarre or excessive to you?  Is this a strange or unnatural reaction?
    It seems to be an immature reaction, one I would expect from a child who hasn't learned how to deal with anger. I'd like more context on the culture before saying it is bizarre, excessive, strange, or unnatural. Such a reaction would be appropriate to Renaissance Italy, feudal Japan, the Middle East, liberal California, and other backwards cultures. Laughing 

    I hope this helps. Keep writing!


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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  Guest on November 22nd 2013, 10:24 am

    Mindspike's comments are much along the lines of what I myself thought.  If your paraphrasing matches with the actual prose, then you're holding back information that can help a reader out.  If you're writing it for yourself then this is a non-issue, but if you do intend to have it available for readership then consider your selected audience.

    Targeting geeks and nerds who are well versed in this stuff, they'll be able to figure it out.  I had difficulty with #2, so there's a problem.  The others I had to make an intuitive leap, which is okay and fun in small doses, but if you're doing it for a whole book, well not all geeks and nerds are going to thank you for making their brains work all the time.  Help them out a little.  Try reading a book called Gardens of the Moon, a 600+ pager where the author leaves the reader to work out what's going on for themselves.  I can't imagine a non-genre fan getting into that book, and your sample situations are about on par, so not for genre fans, as-is.  A genre fan might assuming your trying to be clever, and get annoyed after too much of it.  Plenty of genre fans gave up on Gardens of the Moon, and they would be the same ones who give up on your story.

    Consider a much broader target audience, and frankly, you must be more forthcoming with the information that you give.  I can guess at what Projective Telepathy is, but I'm not certain.  A non-Geek, I don't know if their going to be able to make the kind of guess I did.  Returning to example #2, combat has to be clear, and this brief description reminds me of an author who always catches flack in reviews for confusing readers with combat scenes.  Add to that mix a clever word play that a non-genre reader would not pick up on, while struggling to get their heads around the normal action.  Beat around the bush too much, and annoy your reader at your own risk.  The better alternative is to clear, explicit.

    I'm a bit puzzled, why are you not making your prose more explicit?

    5. Character F is a friend of the injured D.  Upon seeing D in this condition, his immediate reaction...should be to make sure their friend is okay!  To make sure they're getting proper medical attention!  And to make sure that they will be kept safe.  To stay with them at their bedside, until there isn't anything more they can do.  I would also support Mindspike' and ComiKate's stance. I would say that a characters response to some villain's harmful actions toward their friend is something that needs to be written with careful consideration. You never know what kind of reader might end up taking the wrong message away from your story's pages.

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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  Paeter on November 22nd 2013, 2:58 pm



    1. They can make other people feel specific emotions. But that's a guess.

    2. Electrocuted her with her super-palm-taser-powers.

    3. I'd assume telekinetically, but I'd make a quick re-read of previous sentences to make sure I didn't miss some other way she might have done it.

    4. Used a sensory super-power to assess the physical condition of the person they were touching.

    5. Only excessive if I felt like the character was not simply venting but actually beginning to make plans to kill someone. I'd need some more context and info about the character's personality.


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    Re: Seeking some quick and easy feedback

    Post  Rohelf on November 26th 2013, 5:45 pm

    Thanks, guys.  The responses have been very helpful, and I'm going to be making some revisions over the holiday.

    To answer some specific questions you guys had for me:

    Desert Kris wrote: I'm a bit puzzled, why are you not making your prose more explicit?
    In general, because I've read so many things exhorting me to "show, not tell," and "resist the urge to explain." In specific, because this piece is written in 3rd person limited, and sometimes she doesn't know exactly what's happening (like in examples 2 and 4), so I chose to let the reader discover along with the character.

    mindspike wrote: The phrase "projective empath" lacks context when divorced from the scene. This phrase should accompany further explanation or examples.
    An explanation did accompany this term in the text (pretty much exactly as DrewRub, ComiKate, and Paeter guessed).  What the readers objected to was the use of the term "empath."  To us geeks who are well-versed in superpowers, empath=possessor of emotion-based powers, but to these readers, empath=person with empathy=kind, understanding guy, which the wielder of these powers is definitely not.

    ComiKate wrote: How could people not get this one??
    I know! Smile The TK was mentioned about four and a half pages earlier, but hadn't yet been used in the chapter I submitted (although it's used a lot previously in the complete work).  A couple readers thought the character should have some sort of tell or cue to indicate that TK was about to be used.

    Paeter wrote: Only excessive if I felt like the character was not simply venting but actually beginning to make plans to kill someone. I'd need some more context and info about the character's personality.
    Desert Kris wrote: I would say that a characters response to some villain's harmful actions toward their friend is something that needs to be written with careful consideration.  You never know what kind of reader might end up taking the wrong message away from your story's pages.
    Yeah, I keep going back and forth on this one.  Part of what has F so angry is the knowledge that not only is his friend hurt, but that the guy who did it will probably get away with it, and I'm debating saving this extreme reaction for the point at which this is made explicit to all the characters, instead of having him (and the reader) make a leap of supposition here.  For the record, he doesn't actually attempt murder.  He's just utterly furious at the cruelty and injustice of the situation.  He's generally a fairly quiet, gentle person, and this is the first time we see what has the potential to set him off (everybody's got their anger threshold).

    mindspike wrote: Such a reaction would be appropriate to Renaissance Italy, feudal Japan, the Middle East, liberal California, and other backwards cultures.
    I'd think liberal Californians would be more likely to hold a sit-in for the perpetrator, blocking traffic in front of the courthouse and insisting that he be released.  All his evil deeds are perfectly understandable manifestations of his injured psyche, after all, and he really just needs a hug. Rolling Eyes Wink

    Thanks again, everybody.  You're helping to create a more awesome fantasy novel. Very Happy

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