Loki’s Page

Loki on Chapter 1 – 18 August 2010

I, myself, have never greatly valued the beginning or end of a story – not over all the middle, at least. When I finish a book, I am seldom left at the same place the characters are. I am simply an observer in their lives, and when all is said and done, when I’m done watching and listening, I am left thinking about the memorable moments, rather than the recent ones. As readers, we experience the character’s lives rather differently than they do. We can fast forward, rewind – sometimes we’re even forced to do so. But the stars of the story experience every second. Not all seconds are exciting, though – we are scarcely dropped into the tale at hand from the very start of someone’s life, and typically finish before their death.

Anyway, before this paragraph gets out of hand, my point is that when I open a book, I usually have very low expectations for the first few pages. I anticipate normalcy; slow introductions to these people and the world they’re dragging us into.

And here, this is exactly what we get, up to a point. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. The thing about young adult fiction is that a rather large amount of it is very generic. The way this plot is initially portrayed seemed to me exactly like the last YA fantasy I’d read, and the one before
that, and the one before that…

So, quite frankly, this didn’t reel me in, but it didn’t repel me, either. You have to give some books a chance – a lot of them start out slow.

Eventually, however, this started to wear on me a little bit. I was actually – I kid you not – EXCITED to be confused when Rainald began discussing Full Council and High Council. I mean, it was like, “HEY, SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW TO BE DISCOVERED LATER IN A COOL WAY! YAYYY!” Some amount of mental stimulation, you know? It makes your brain work a little harder.

The next paragraph read, “High Council was [the definition of High Council].”

…-headdesk-

However, seeing as this is a lo(oooooo)ng first chapter, I suppose I’ll have to stop rambling about the start of the story and talk about the lovely little people running around in it.

Considering the fact that Rainald’s arrival in the story was something the writer was not anticipating, he seems to have a very clear personality from what we’ve seen so far. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d guess that he was a character that was thoroughly studied before this story was written. His personality is fairly clear – quiet, thoughtful, perhaps modest in some respects and not so much so in others. His eye for detail is his most obvious trait – this seems to be a token characteristic of a lot of main characters. (And why not? If your character is observing the scenery, you can inform the reader through their eyes. It makes the narration go much smoother.) But no matter how firm his personality is, it doesn’t change the fact that he seems, to me, rather *typical.* One thing I don’t tolerate in a book is feeling like I’ve read the same thing before (I know, I said I was a chance-giver, but only up to a point). You know, *those* books. With the same set of characters (the misunderstood underdog with a heart of gold usually the hero), same vague plot aspects (war, heir to the throne, deep and ancient magic, forbidden love, yadda yadda yadda)… you know. I mean, that’s what a lot of teenage writing is. You learn from what you see around you – the ability to learn from your own brain is something I’ve *heard* (read: sources not necessarily credible) tends to come with age. I’ll even admit I’m guilty of this – that’s why I write fanfiction, so I can play with someone else’s concepts rather than making up my own. Rainald may be the hero next door – but honestly, what are the chances he won’t be? How many different personality types can you put in the spotlight? Besides, you can at least appreciate that this story has a quite a few twists on its side.

But anyhow, more about Rainald later. There’s always time to talk about Rainald. I’ve been sitting here for about 8 minutes trying to think of a way to phrase this that makes it sound like I have a soul (or at least some skill and transitioning between topics), so I’m just going to come out and say it: Rainald’s father died, and I honestly didn’t care.

The thing about killing a character right off the bat is that the reader sometimes doesn’t know how to feel about it. I mean, of course, Rainald is sad. It’s sad. He just lost his father. But at this point, we don’t know much about the relationship Rainald had with him. We know little about his father; the range of adjectives used to describe him both confuse me and tell me very little. Also, we know nothing about families in this culture. We don’t know if Clan families always live together, or if there comes a point in their lives they scarcely interact. It’s hard to judge exactly how big of a deal an event is until you see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. Plus, Rainald’s mourning period is short, as is Alleth’s. All we get from them are wet eyes, some depressed thoughts and “I shall miss him.” I feel a bit of their pain for a while, but it seems like when Rainald wakes up the next morning he’s more nervous about the inconvenience of his father’s death than upset about the fact that his father is actually dead. This doesn’t build my sympathy towards his situation any. I mean, I realize the death of Rainald’s father = Rainald becoming the Lord of Avigor, which basically makes it a plot device. But why not make use of the situation? Give us a glimpse deeper into Rainald. Readers don’t always get the chance to connect emotionally with the characters we’re reading about.

There are more areas in which I’m craving additional emotional depth; one is in the writing style. Sometimes it’s hard to write a great story and write it in a great way – or to please everyone’s idea of “great.” In Alma’s more recent work, there’s something a lot more… poetic about the writing. You know, something that makes you feel connected to the book – not necessarily through the characters, but through the narration. This is quite a straight-forward, if descriptive writing style we’re working with right now. When I’m reading a book, I like to feel a bit more included. There’s a way to go deeper than description, as odd as that sounds. I don’t know how to get there, but it seems that Alma definitely has an idea nowadays.

Small observations/ramblings that deserve bullet points rather than paragraphs:

[+] There are two things in particular that I like about this first chapter: Argones and Asturias, the two moons. I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that this story was set on a different planet at first, but in retrospect, I like that, even though it has no direct involvement with
the current plot. It’s almost like… foreshadowing. I can’t explain much more without spoiling anything… some fantasy novels are vague about their location – no or little geographical or astrological references, so it’s like “where in the world/the solar system/the galaxy/the universe are they?” (Also, one of their moons is green. I mean, come on. That’s just plain cool.)

[-] This is coming from the person who typed this monster up, so I would know: TOO MUCH LIBERAL USE OF THE WORD “ONE.” I mean, really. Look at the first paragraph. LOOK AT ITTTT. Seven “one”s. *Seven.*

[+] I’m not a huge fan of Rainald, and I’m not a huge fan of Alleth, but I love their relationship. The little conversation at the end of the chapter. Awww.[-] Saw a few typos. Those were my fault, sorry. xP

[+] I love the Clan names. They’re so pretty.

[-] Sometimes I feel like the slang, if you will, bounces back and forth between old time-y and more modern. I mean, it’s not a huge difference, but it’s there… right? I think so.

[+] I agree with Courtney in that the council scene was fun and tension-filled. It really gives you a nice viewpoint on the stances of the different Clans and their leaders.

Loki on Chapter 1 rewrite – 24 September 2010

Love:

[+] The beginning. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t completely
in love with the original start until I read this one – greatly enjoyed it. Not
only does it make the whole thing immediately more interesting, but…

[+] Yayy, the end of Rainald the robot! Some *emotion,*
thank GOD. I’d really, really like to see that continue throughout the story.

[+] The subplot of Rainald’s father not liking his sources
for information? Loved it. Gave both of them a little more humanity.

[+] Just the syntax in general – I like that you can push phrases and
paragraphs around in any which order and they still work. In fact, one might
even venture to say that they work even better than before.

[+] Breaking things up into two chapters. Very nice. *Very*
nice.

[+] I did notice a substantial decrease in the “one”’s, and
that was greatly enjoyed.

[+] It never really occurred to me before, but Alleth is
kind of a smart aleck. She’s fun to read.

[+] There are so many little things – small differences,
really – just choices in diction that somehow make this so much more fun to
read. Just *being able* to write like that is so difficult, and so impressive.

[+] The narration sounds vaguely modern, but the dialogue
doesn’t.

[+] We get to say “hello” to the characters before we get
tossed into the technicalities of their world!

Meh:

[-] Slightly concerned that I will never be able to like
Rainald as a character, but hey, main characters aren’t necessarily supposed to
be your favorites.

[-] Actually, that’s kind of it… wow. Not bad, Alma, not bad.

Loki on Chapter 2 – 21 October 2010

Okay, first and foremost, I have something I need to rant about:

GILDEN. JUST… GILDEN. I realize that Alma is already aware of the depth of my adoration for Gilden, but I have to say it – GILDEN IS MY FAVORITE. HE LIVES IN A WORLD OF MY FAVORITISM. I REALIZE THAT MAKES NEXT TO NO SENSE, BUT I REALLY DON’T EVEN CARE. I try not to let my personal bias towards Gilden get in the way when I’m critiquing writing referring to him, but I can’t help it – he’s just so humorous and awesome, and his character is so well done throughout the book that… I … this is a
very large part of why I love Alma’s writing, is because so often there’s just that *one* character for everyone that sort of worms their way into your heart like some kind of good parasite and steals your soul…

(“And throwing cushions is unbecoming to a Clan Lord.” Quite possibly my one of my favorite quotes in
the entire book. Yeah, I’m done now.)

Anyhow, in the land of brutal honesty, this may be only me, but I feel the placement of the Rainald and Alleth scene – the racing one – is a little awkward here. Don’t get me wrong, I like the scene, even if it is a tad generic, but some little voice inside me is telling me, ‘This shouldn’t go here. It’s choppy. It’s *not right* somehow.’ I sometimes think of these types of scenes as sort of placed advertisements – like, you know how when you’re watching a TV show or something and they
randomly drop brand names, so it’s just like a commercial inside the show (the biggest one I can think of at the moment is Warehouse 13 and Myka’s awfully convenient, bi-weekly love of Twizzlers)? Okay, so this is a bit of a weak analogy, but what I’m TRYING to say is that while it’s a good scene that tells
a lot about the characters, I feel like it was kind of thrown in there. It’s the kind of scene that technically could have gone any place. It doesn’t feel right because it’s too… general? Intentional? Informative? Convenient? Do you guys see what I’m getting at here? I feel like this tends to happen in quite a bit of amateur writing, because everyone spends a lot of time talking about “character development” and the like, and so sometimes writers think they have to cram it somewhere in there rather than let it come out on its own. I’m thinking that the actual RELATIONSHIP between Rainald and Alleth was very spontaneous and very, very real – it’s just that the scenes that put that
relationship on display are a bit forced.

(This is small and random, but I saw one place where I missed an “r,” so Rainald reigned in Imril, his ‘hose’. Haha.)

Anyhow, I did really enjoy the flashback. I think an important thing to the pacing of a story is that a large event doesn’t simply cause deep grief that dissipates quickly, but that something as largely
upsetting as the death of a father continues to impact the character for a long while throughout the story. Very, very nice to see Rainald feeling a little pain there.

On the other hand, the Macha thing had a bit of an awkward time lapse to it, as did the traveling portions. I don’t want to sound redundant, because I realize that Zach already mentioned this, but you’re reading along, and all of a sudden you stumble across ‘Those three months fled before he knew it.’ Whoa – wait… what? It was kind of disorienting, I guess – like tripping over a step you didn’t know was there. No big issue, but it’s jarring. (I suppose I am somewhat fine with the lack of narration of travel, though – sometimes I guess novels in this ‘time period’ tend to spend entirely too much
time chronicling what happens on horseback.)

I do think it took a good while for Mirella to be introduced – in the present, anyway – which is a shame, because I do enjoy her character. It’s nice to have an honest-to-God downer around in a novel, I think – someone who’s just a complete emotional wreck, or an almost complete emotional wreck. Or a closeted emotional wreck. You know, she provides that needed angst in exactly the right amount, because it’s so strong and you feel awful for her, but she’s not in the spotlight all the time so it’s not all in-your-face. I will take this opportunity to point out that, though Rainald and Mirella seem
to be two very different people, her grief when it comes to her fiancé hasn’t faded all that far, even over the years. You’d think Rainald would be *slightly* less over his father than he seems to be.

I’m not going to rant about Rainald’s sudden precog gift, because Zach and Courtney pretty much covered that. But I am going to talk about Aleta for a minute – I mean, not only was Rainald’s gift completely rushed, *she* was completely rushed. Usually, given, in a book you can tell when the main
character’s love interest shows up. It was even easy to guess that Rainald wasn’t going to end up with anyone his High Council buddies tried to sat him up with. But at least you are often paced into getting to know the love interest before anything actually starts happening. Not only do we know next to nothing about Aleta or her personality, making her extremely difficult to like or connect to or want to see with Rainald, but I found myself almost irritated by her. In such limited spotlight, I feel like she came off as self-involved, ill-spoken, and impersonal. Either she needs some serious character work, or she needs a chance to show off her character work.

Let’s do the list thing again:

[+] I do enjoy a certain tendency that I’ve noticed throughout the book – that minor characters and their stories, while not heavily featured, tend to be almost integral to the plot and the pacing of the
story. The example here would be the very end of the chapter, with the light coming from Mirella’s room.

[-] Not only does it not seem plausible that Rainald would know precog the first time he had it, it makes no sense that some guy who he comes to see in the middle of the night would believe him without a doubt, for crying out loud. Or that he would be so nonchalant about setting the whole damn
thing up.

[-] After no small amount of pondering, it seems that Rainald is more mood-swingey than under-emotional. Like, he switched between happy and sad at pretty impressive speed. He can be a little hard to follow sometimes.

[-] I actually used one of those word cloud sites to confirm my suspicions on this – the most frequently overused words in this chapter that aren’t names of characters or Clans are: still, now, back, time, and –twitch- one.

[+] Love that Rainald’s taking a cue from Gilden.

[/] The humor in here really is nice – I’d love to see more of it.

 

 

Loki on Chapter 3 – 30 November 2010

 

The ways the little facts have been slipped in here are nice and subtle in some ways, and not so much in a few others. Case in point here is the carefully explained history of Aleta’s genealogy. I scarcely appreciate a
paragraph that is full dialogue, and the fact that this was all purely factual, uninteresting mumblings made it almost irritating. If Aleta is a good enough character… actually, scratch that, we’re probably unlikely to care about who she’s related to at all unless it’s somehow related to the story.  I suppose Rainald wants to know, but we don’t.

Additional “plugins” included the info about the background of the gods, as well. The narration teeters precariously between thorough and somewhat tedious there.

I think part of the reason that I don’t like Aleta so much is that she seems so *perfect.* It’s really quite grating. When we meet a character, we want to see their flaws – hers are hard to find in the blur of Rainald’s praise and precogs.  It’s hard to even know anything ABOUT her. I mean, knowing your writing, as well as realizing that this is Rainald’s first precog and his first love interest, I almost… don’t trust her. Like, I expect her to be working for some kind of as yet unseen enemy or something. She seems not off, but almost too right.

Random tangent: I do like the Ichari. They’re kind of my favorite group throughout the series. I think it would be cool, though, if there were a little something dark to their story… I don’t know, just to add to the eerie factor. I love me some creepy neutral characters, and it seems like as far as chilling goes, these guys could go either way – just depends on your viewpoint on the whole thing.

It seems that the banter between Rainald and Mirella is a little forced, but in my opinion, that compliments the scenes they have together. It shows that there’s a bit of awkwardness there; I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but it works. I like that they’re still family, but there’s a little bit of distance – I kind of enjoy their relationship in general, in the midst of all the close, feel-good friendships Rainald has with so many of the other characters.

Another thing I’d work on is the transition between scenes; it’s a little choppy between when Rainald is with Aleta and going to bed and going to Council, for instance.

It is nice to finally see a substantial plot rising up, ever faster and more complicated, from the myriad of ramblings. I mean, the ramblings are fun, but the plot makes it a book, right?

Loki on Chapter 2 Rewrite – 20 January 2011

I really, really like this rewrite. A lot. The way the original ideas were morphed into something more or less the same but far more fun to read is pretty impressive. I actually liked the scene with Rainald and
Alleth a lot more this time. It’s nice to be able to experience the dynamic between the two of them without being distracted by little odds and evens in word choice and such.

I’m not sure how fond I am of where the chapter cut off. It just seemed a bit random, as well as too highly emphasized, especially for how short-term the reader’s knowledge of Gilden is. It also, I think, implies that the scene to follow will be far more crucial than I feel it actually is. It was just a tad bit anticlimactic.

That said, I adore the largely untouched dialogue between Rainald and Gilden as much as I did when I first read it, and was biting back laughter. The thing I like about Gilden (well, one of the many) is the way he speaks what you’re thinking, such as re: Rainald’s remark about Rialle’s hair being “the color of Asturias’ light.” Personally, I’ve found that he tends to say exactly what the reader is thinking while reading – it’s nice, it gives you the feeling that you’re somehow represented, that the writer understands you enough to give you that link.

I appreciate the insights into Rainald’s grieving – or reasons to avoid grieving, at any rate. Not only does him being busy and tired build the empathy level, it doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s thinking, which is nice, seeing as he’s the main character and all.

Small likes:

[+] Rainald’s dislike for Full Council. I don’t know why I enjoy this so much, I just do.

[+] Clueless!Rainald at his first precog experience. Remarkable improvement.

[+] Oh, Mirella, I enjoy your character so.

[+]“Mirella! Gods, I haven’t seen you since you were my age!” Oh, Gilden. Never change.

[+] One thing I do appreciate about Aleta is that we haven’t been hearing about her since the
beginning – as in, Rainald was originally supposed to be set up with her sister.

[+] I actually like Aleta a lot more in general in this version. The way she talks about her precog helps – gives her some sort of humanity, makes her sound a bit weird. It’s great.

[/] One thing that I would say needs a tad more work – a lot of the lords seem to have quite similar personalities, and they sort of blur together in my memory. It would be nice to have a few more definitive characteristics on a few of these guys.

Loki on Chapter 3 Rewrite – 23 February 2011

The first paragraph, I must admit, had my creeper senses tingling a bit. As someone living in the modern world, I constantly see examples of over-infatuation in media as well as real life, and while I realize that that isn’t what’s going on here, that was my gut reaction to the way it was phrased. Or maybe it’s just the concept, I’m not entirely clear.

I like Lord Dow quite a bit in this scene, come to think of it. He’s become entertaining, if not distinct in his own personality. And that’s really all you can ask for a character playing a minor role such as his,
I think.

I’m feeling like one thing that bugs me about Aleta is the descriptions used around her. I’m not too fond of reading about her “lithe” figure or “thick”, “honey-colored” hair – I feel as though some difference in adjectives would be nice… maybe even a few less?

The speed of the whole Rainald/Aleta thing still catches me off guard. I agree with what Courtney says – it seems like two kids who don’t really know what they’re talking about. The only thing backing their relationship up is a premonition, and, while enough on the side of logic, I suppose, it doesn’t quite do enough to persuade the reader’s emotional senses. I was mostly down with it until he started calling her “love”, implying deep emotional connection rather than the precognition of deep emotional connection.

The plot development! The starship! The Ichari! It’s all getting me awfully excited, and I’ve READ the darn thing already.

I might have already said this, but I like that little moment of disquiet between Rainald and Gilden.

“High Council business, eh?” repeated Gilden with a touch of belligerence. Rainald, winced at the tone and turned his eyes on his Foster-brother. Gilden was staring at him with dark eyes.

“Ill chosen words, Foster-brother,” said Rainald. “I’m sorry. Still, it was aired in High Council, the same one my Lordship over Avigor was confirmed at, so I suppose it does make it High Council business. So don’t look at me like that, Gilden Lammuir, you know damned well it was none of it of my doing!”

Gilden cast his eyes down, rebuked. “Sorry, Rainald.”

Gives both of them personality, gives their relationship dimension – foreshadows a bit, shall I dare to say?

Also, Rainald dropping the bomb on Gilden. Hell YES. I just find them adorable.

I like where the end of the last portion landed. It was nice. Looking forward to more!

Loki on Chapter 4 – 19 April 2011

I almost pity Aleta. She really is a kid; as a 14-year-old myself, the thought of being sworn to marry someone freaks me out entirely. I guess this is an aspect sort of addressed later in the book, the whole gender equality thing, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

One thing I sort of would like about Aleta is the mix of childishness and maturity that the narration states her to have, but I don’t see that claim represented in her actions. She seems almost rigid all the time. Like I just said, she’s a kid, though this society assumes her to be more adult than anything, really. Some of that quirky playfulness demonstrated in earlier rewrites would be nice here.

I found the detailed descriptions of clothing rather tedious, personally, but that’s just me.

It seems as though the way nobody seems to take Aleta seriously is supposed to build our sympathy towards her. Instead, with Liara in particular, it just makes me sort of annoyed. Not with any one character in particular, I just find it annoying to read.

I somewhat enjoyed Aleta’s awe at the ball and such. It’s nice to be looking through the eyes of someone naïve. But that damn precog… Ugh. Ugh. UGH. I love Rainald and Gilden’s little relationship so much! I don’t want it to… -grumble- Other than my personal bias against this plot point, it cut the scene off somewhat awkwardly. The time lapses, again, could use a bit of work. Once it gets into the narrative lull, it’s all right, but the in-between sentences are jolting.

Is it supposed to be “wedded” or “wed”? Either?

I like the Ichari. I like this Ichara girl. Fun and ominous. That bit might have been slightly more enjoyable without Aleta butting in on occasion. I sort of wanted her to just shut UP.

The death of Rainald’s mother was better received than that of his father, when it comes to realistic emotions. Not great, but a certainly better – I think it’s fine for it not to impact Rainald quite as much as the loss of his father would have, as it seems that the mother is a slightly less influential figure in this society.

The entire last section was a tad bit jarring. Abrupt, you know. But knowing that the REAL story starts soon after here inspires no shortage of anticipation.

8 Comments to “Loki’s Page”

  1. I’m definitely with you on the emotional void surrounding Rainald’s father’s death. I felt like there should be more as well. More about who he was, more about how Rainald felt about him before his death and after, and more about how he died. It’s always seemed way too far-fetched that anyone just gets to a certain age and goes “okay, I’m done, I’ll go ahead and die now.” The end, dead, for no reason. He should be mentioned as being sick…or maybe a murder or a wound from hunting or something other than “goodbye son, have fun being Lord Avigor, I’m retiring permanently to the next life.”

    I really like the way you write Loki…you’re very good at using your words to show exactly what you mean. Just wanted to commend you on that.

  2. Definitely. When you kill a character, it needs depth when it comes to both emotion and logic. I mean, he just… dies. There’s not really anything before or after. You can tell that the author didn’t really prepare the circumstances, so the characters don’t even think about them. It’s just… strange and awkward. I think mentioning that he’s sick would be a good idea – I agree that he needs *some* reason to die.
    Really? Thank you! Half the time I’m not even sure what I’m even talking about, so that’s really reassuring to hear.

  3. haha, I’m envious of the amount of information you picked up from the first chapter, when reading your review I had a lot of, “oh wait, why didn’t I notice that?” moments. So, thank you it was thoroughly enlightening.
    I agree with Courtney, your writing style is very entertaining, while giving the information in an easy to digest manner.

  4. I was wondering if you have heard of nanowrimo; it’s a national writing competition. the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. It seems like a fun and interesting challenge so I plan on attending. Thought you might want to. Here’s a link for the site http://www.nanowrimo.org/

    • Eek, I just found this comment – sorry for the late reply (if it is late; the blog’s not showing met he date posted).
      NaNo is AMAZING, I absolutely adore it. I did it for the past three years, but I decided to sit this year out. Did you go for it? How’d it go?

      • I only reached 28 thousand words, so not so great. Haha, though it’s an improvement. I met Ala at a writing contest that she was hosting. It was called a “short story” competition though i missed the short, my entry ending up at 21 thousand words. Though that took me two months, at the time. This was my first year, I heard about it from my lady friend. Yeah, a notification that there was a reply would be convenient. I’ll try and check them regularly.

  5. Hey, look at that, I’m only 6 days late this time!
    28 thousand words is definitely not bad for a first try. I think I was at a bit below that the first time I took a shot at NaNo. Have you done anything with your 28 thousand? Was that the end of the story, or just the end of the month? It’s always interesting to hear what comes of NaNo projects; so often, though, they just sit on hard drives.
    Alma did tell me about your “short” story. It made me laugh, and the fact that something so out of place in terms of length did so well in a short story contest is impressive. Heh, especially knowing Alma.

    (Oh, would you look at that – there’s now a pretty little box reading “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” I didn’t see that there before. Don’t mind if I do, Mr. Blog.)

  6. The 28 thousand was the end of the month not the story. My writing style seemed to degrade as the month dragged on, so I got sorta sick of the story. I’d probably end up changing the second half drastically. I like the idea behind it though. Thanks for the entire “notify me of follow up comments box.” Haha, your funny. Yay for pointing out the blazingly obvious! Oh and sorry, considering im a month and 20 days late on the reply.

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