The way I see it, analysing writing is one way to improve your own. If you can find mistakes, figure out how something can be improved while also consciously commenting on what works and why, you are bound to figure out ways to make your own writing better.
This is difficult. I am no expert, but I can try, I can give it a shot.
So I encourage you to give it a shot as well. Doing this for a storygame, in general, is more difficult due to length and branching, the choices that are given and the impact they have, and everything else regarding the medium.
So I decided to try some analysis on a short story, since it is the writing itself that will ultimately make a story, in my opinion. You don't even have to type it all out, but I find that doing so helps with getting more concrete ideas out there. This way others can also help you out by pointing out mistakes in your analysis, which will further help you improve.
I encourage you to see if there is anything useful you can get out of my analysis, but also to keep your eyes open for stuff you disagree with, that way I can also improve (as long as you tell me that is).
It took a while to get it all structured like this, and there is many ways to go about analysis, this is just the way I chose to use this time.
If you wish to read the short story being analysed, it will be posted in a reply to this post. Also note that I am analysing the story as is, I'm trying to only look at what is there.
CHARACTERS Characters are important, they are a major part of any story and are a great way to provide engaging narrative.
Initial Response These characters are somewhat generic. The level of description given to each also varies. Many of the 'Red' group (who are described) have a "red coat". Some diversity in description would do wonders in helping them feel like different characters. Anyway, some characters also seem to be added for no reason. I don't see why Geo was introduced, rather than just having Serene go help the Red King instead. Heck introducing him earlier would have at least made some sense.
The total size of the Red group is never mentioned directly, and I'd say this isn't necessarily bad, vagueness is something that can work in writing and can help readers use their imagination. I feel it makes the Red group feel a bit disconnected, but I guess you wouldn't want a bunch of characters being introduced all of a sudden.
Also the Red Runner quickly stops being the protagonist, which is a bit weird. Maybe starting the thing with him talking to the Red King would have been better, but I guess that might not fit well with all the exposition the Red Runner needs to delivers at the start.
Character Development Nothing really seems to happen on the character development front, if you ask me. I'll summarise to show my point.
Red Runner - Looses all personality after the opening "story telling". If anything he becomes worse (character wise). Red King - Nothing really changes, he just stops smiling a few times. I guess his outfit gets messed up as well, but that isn't really character development. Serene - Nothing happens, however she doesn't get much scene time (what do you call screen time in written works?). Geo - I guess he is sorta shown to be inept since it takes him so long to get to the warehouse, but since time is pretty vague (specially with the 'stylistic' perspective changes), I guess that might not be the case. However he clearly takes a different path to what the previous members of the Red group took, seeing as they are going down a side street. Blue Bodyguards/Runner/Patrol - These people get no development, they don't really feel like characters either. I guess the story is focused more on the Red side, but even the majority there got little development considering how many of them there seem to be. Blue King, Cane - I'll quickly mention character names are... interesting. Also the biggest development Cane gets is: 1. Getting a name. 2. Becoming angry at the end. Silver King - I guess he stops being so arrogant after losing a fight? Kinda? Anyway, he gets his ass whooped and seemingly one arm can't be used to summon guns anymore. Does this constitute character development? Maybe. Yellow King - WHY!? Why add another character at the very end, it is a cliff hanger, right? Seems stupid considering this was meant to be a short story. Anyway no development for them (for obvious reasons).
I might have missed someone, but don't think so. Anyway, I'd say the 'short story' tries to be something else, I feel there are too many characters for any meaningful development to happen. Also all the Kings seem to have similar personalities in the broad sense, the 'I'm so great' personality type. You'd think they'd all end up teaming up if they were so similar.
PLOT I'm using this term with a pretty broad definition (since I won't google a more specific variant).
Pacing + Flow I'm no expert on these, but I'd say the pacing feels a bit weird. I'd say the '~' skips are a main cause of it. I guess it can be excused as a 'stylistic' choice. Flow is alright for the most part.
Setting Interesting I guess, it could use some more specifics to help bring it all together, and I can't help but feel the whole 'Kings with different colours and powers' isn't that original. I guess props for liking fantasy and using colour to differentiate factions. But really, I imagine there are better ways to do this. Also does the Red group have a name? I don't think it was mentioned. At least Blue has the weird name of Proto.
Also why are they all fighting? Do they just have different colour preferences? The Red and Blue King obviously know each other, but I have no idea what the deal with the Silver one was, seems they came from no where, got their ass kicked and left...
There is a lot of room to go with this setting, and nothing really seems to happen. It all feels like a long introduction, almost. Also why didn't the Blue King follow the Red King? I guess this can be explained easily enough, but it isn't. Guess readers should use their imagination?
Gimmick Oh yeah, guess feathers mean something? I mean the Blue King didn't seem to have one, but the other two did. Also each King seems to have a power. Silver - Guns. Blue - Magic. Red - Umm... something? I do wonder about the intricacies of this power system, but it really isn't explored, like at all.
The more I think about it this doesn't really feel like a self contained story, just like a small happening that ultimately doesn't seem to matter.
Conclusion I feel there is more to talk about, but I can't think of what that more is (at the moment). Anyway, I'd say this definitely isn't the worst thing ever, but it could be better.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU
What do you think I missed and should have mentioned?
What did you think of the short story? What about my analysis (the part that is here)?
What do you think of the short stories punctuation? Primarily the punctuation regarding the dialogue? It looks consistent to me, which is good, but I'm still getting used to the way it should be handled so I'm not sure.
Also, if you are up for a challenge, I encourage you to rewrite the story so that it is better! Would be interesting to see what others can do.
Thank you for reading my thoughts.
Being a Runner isn't easy. You never know if what you hear is real, or just something fabricated by the enemy. Honestly, I think we should be called Spies, considering all the sneaking around we have to do.
But yeah, when we get important information, we run. We run.
You know the abandoned steel factory? Steely? Yeah, that's the one. I was just stationed in that District. I was following some amateur patrol. They were so inept, honestly, crazy how easy it was, one would expect better from Proto. Anyway, heard them use a new report, they were giving it to one of their Runners. An S51.
I knew the 'S' meant 'sighting', but a five after that? I thought their urgency system only went up to a four. Apparently it has something to do with the warehouse, I didn't wait to hear what, I just started running.
So yeah, hope that book Boss has is up to date, but honestly, I'd bet he is going to go check it out himself either way. Five on the fucking urgency scale-
The story telling session is interrupted by a door slamming into the wall. From within the separated office walks out the Boss.
He is wearing a long, bright red coat, and a similarly coloured, long brimmed hat. A red feather with a golden stalk is attached to the hat. His coat is unbuttoned, he is dressed in a dark grey shirt with black pants. He has two belts, one is thin and at an angle. Both are a faded white. He has black boots and gloves.
He is clean shaven, with a strong chin. Bright blue eyes embedded above prominent cheekbones sweep the room, freezing the men and women within, each of which has at least one piece of red clothing. Automatic rifles are resting against the faded walls of the office, hand guns are piled on a small coffee table. The previous speaker, a Runner, is dressed in a grey shirt and black trousers. He has a thin red bandanna wrapped around one arm. It appears to be easily removable.
The Boss speaks, "I'm heading out. I'm delegating Serene in command of this Cluster till I get back." A woman with a red coat similar to his stands up. She has black shades covering her eyes and a black scarf across her face. Long black hair covers her shoulders.
"King, understood. We will await your return," the Boss, or King, looks towards the Runner.
"You, come with me," and with that he heads towards the exit door. The Runner follows him, while Serene heads into the main office.
A Runner in a black trench coat is holding out a blue piece of cloth. He is breathing heavily. The man standing in front of him is dressed in black, apart from the cuffs of his sleeves, which are the same blue as the piece of cloth. This man is wearing a black mask which has a tinted glass visor.
The Runner speaks, "S51... contested steel warehouse."
The two are standing in a room with white walls, a door behind each of them. The bodyguard turns to his door, knocking. It opens slightly, beyond it is another bodyguard, dressed the same.
"What is it?" "S51 at the contested steel warehouse. Tell the King," the door is closed. Faint footsteps can be heard.
The bodyguard turns to the Runner, "You can go. Resume your post."
The Runner virtually dashes out of the small room.
The Red King turns a corner along the empty road. His Runner is still following him.
Up ahead, down the long stretch of asphalt, is the steel warehouse. The massive double doors facing this street are slightly ajar. They have countless bullet holes within them. Further ahead of the door is a large pile of crates. Around them are dead men and women, all are wearing grey shirts and black trousers.
"Collateral. You didn't mention this?" "It's new... I never took Proto for the kind to waste ammo."
The King smiles as he resumes walking, "It isn't Proto." The Runner goes to follow him, but the King speaks over his shoulder, "No wait here. If you see a guy in a vest, go back to the Cluster, and then get Serene to send back up."
The Runners freezes, momentarily confused, then his eyes widen. He rushes to the concrete houses that make up the bulk of this area, heading for one without a door.
The King runs a hand across the left side of his jacket, dropping his smile.
A man is sitting cross legged below a large hole in the metal roof of the large warehouse. Derelict machinery surrounds him on all sides, there isn't much room to walk between them. Catwalks twist around him, stairs and ladders, all rusting.
The man is wearing a light grey suit, with a black shirt and almost silver tie. His shoes are brown leather. From his breast pocket a feather can be seen sticking out. It is silver with a golden stalk. He is loosely holding a handgun in each hand, resting them on the concrete in front of him. His eyes are partially closed.
The floor is empty around him, apart from a few broken screws and pieces of rubble.
He hears a clink past the machine to his left. He raises one arm, gripping the gun tighter, then begins to fire. The bullets begin to eat through the machinery.
Now his eyes are fully open. He ceases firing, then slowly lowers his arm back to it's resting position.
"Paranoid are you?" it is the Red King, speaking from the other side of the warehouse, his voice carries well.
"I just learnt something new, it is unsettling."
"Blah blah, I don't care. Why are you shooting up my neighbourhood?"
"Oh? You are a King? I thought this place belonged to no one. It's what the locals told me, guess they-"
"Why'd you kill them!? What sort of idiot does that?"
"Fuck off," the Silver King unfolds his legs, then begins to get up, "I haven't killed another King yet. Wonder what happens when you die..."
"Another takes my place, obviously, guess you really are an idiot..." a pause, "Oh, and I have to warn you, I don't make a good enemy."
The Silver King is now standing. He raises both arms in the general direction of the Red King's voice. Machinery is blocking his view. His grip tightens, silver light swirls around his guns, then branches away. It solidifies into more guns, like the ones he is holding. They hover fixed distances from the weapons in his hands.
Bullets begin to fly.
A man with tinted, square glasses runs a gloved hand through his black hair. He is wearing a black vest over a long sleeved blue shirt with pale blue cuffs. A short cape of the same colour is covering his left arm. He has black pants with white, vertical lines across their sides.
Four Bodyguards are walking right behind him, carrying automatic rifles. The only differences among them are the shapes of their bodies and the hue of their hair, which is all cut short.
The group is approaching a warehouse, the double doors on this side are closed shut, one even appears jammed further then it should be.
"A new King, how troublesome... just hope they don't have a following yet. Or any mastery over their abilities," the Blue King sighs, "But at least this will be an informational experience. Wouldn't you agree, friends?"
The Bodyguards all nod in unison.
The group stops walking when they reach the double doors. The King turns to his Bodyguards, then gestures at the double doors. As two step forward gunshots are heard, a constant bombardment.
Everyone outside drops down low, the Bodyguards pointing their guns at the door, while their King keeps one hand raised towards it, as if to catch any bullets should they break through.
Then deeper shots begin to ring out, over the top of the constant drumming of the other, faster guns.
The Blue King smiles when he hears them, he begins to gesture, then his Bodyguards disperse, two in each direction along the warehouse. All the while the guns continue to ring out.
The Red Runner bursts back into the office, panic in his eyes, "Serene!? Where is she? Boss needs reinforcement at Steely, fucking Proto's King is there!"
The men and women in the room begin to grab their guns, after a few seconds Serene walks out the office, "What's happening?"
"Proto Kings at warehouse, Boss needs us."
Serene shakes her head, then raises one arm, as if to cut the room in half, "Listen here. Half of you are to stay. It could be a ploy to draw us out. Geo, you take the other half to the warehouse."
A man with a stained red coat snaps to attention, "Understood!" he turns to those on his side of the room, "You half, with me. Come on!"
He leads the way out of the room. Many follow him. Serene waits for them to leave, before heading back into the office.
The Red King is standing below a large hole in the metal roof. One leg is on the arm of the Silver King, who has the other pinned under a large piece of machinery. Shattered guns lie around his free hand, which has a massive bullet wound in it's centre. His suit is stained by much smaller bullet wounds. His face is contorted in pain.
The Red King is pointing a masterfully crafted handgun at the Silver Kings head. It looks as if it is made of silver, but it hardly deflects any of the light pouring in through the roof. The handgun has a dark wooden grip. Red gems line the barrel, forming almost wave like patterns. These waves head in all directions.
The Red King spits to the side. A glob of saliva and blood hits the concrete. His red coat and black shirt obscure his wounds, but they are there, and they are numerous.
He speaks, "Good fight... no idea why you picked it," the Red King grins.
"Fuck you... just end it."
"Oh no, I have plans for you," a short pause, "Unless you really want to die? That might explain your actions."
A few moments pass.
"I take that as your acceptance of utter defeat?"
Metal clanks against concrete, just a small piece. The Silver King's eyes dart to the side.
The Red King whispers, "Don't worry, they'll wait for us to finish," he speaks up, "I won't ask a third time," he shakes the gun lightly.
"Yeah, you win."
The Red King whispers again, "Run when you can," then he relocates his foot to the machinery pinning the Silver King's arm.
He pushes at it, easing some of the pressure, the Silver King tries to pull his arm free, and eventually manages to.
The Blue King, crouching behind a crumbling box, raises one arm towards the roof, conjuring a circle of blue light. It shapes itself into smaller circles within circles, parts rotate within. A blast of blue energy flies forth, sparkling as it collides with the metal.
He leaps up and over the box, which creaks slightly as he vaults over it.
His Bodyguards are pointing rifles at the two Kings in the middle, who look so helpless. The Blue King lets out a laugh.
"Guns? Is that his power?" the Silver King twitches his now free arm, as if to raise it.
The Red King spins, landing a kick across his face. The Bodyguards all take a few steps back, raising their guns further.
The Red King turns to the Blue King, "Yes, more useful than mine."
"You sure? Looks like you won?" it is the Silver Kings turn to spit out some blood, eyes filled with hatred lock onto the Red King, but he doesn't move.
The Red King twitches his gun. The Blue King frowns as he speaks, "Both of you, arms up, slowly, otherwise you are getting shot from four sides," He raises one hand towards each.
The Red King sighs loudly, "I always thought of you as predictable, Cane. But this? You got here so fast..."
Both the Red and Silver King begin to raise their arms. The Red King loosely holding his gun.
The Blue King, Cane, smiles, "Proto always aims to improve, something I can't say about your band of trouble makers. However, I will say, you have definitely proved useful today. I suppose your habit of picking fights isn't as detrimental to my goals as I initially thought."
The Silver King whispers, "Why doesn't he just kill us?"
"Because of the way inheritance works, shut up."
Cane's face clouds in anger, "No whispering!"
Cane shakes his head, or at least he goes to.
As soon as his eyes are off him, in a second, the Red King adjusts the grip on his gun ever so slightly, aiming towards the Blue King and then firing. A large muzzle tinged with red exits his gun. The bullet looks more like a missile in the split second it takes to fly across the room. Yet it doesn't pierce the Blue King, for incantations of blue light form a barrier, catching the bullet and crushing it.
Yet as the bullet is crushed a massive eruption fires outwards, a shock wave of dark smoke spreads throughout the warehouse, obscuring everyone's vision.
The Bodyguards begin to fire, the Silver King moves his good hand within the smoke, conjuring a gun and raising it to fire back as he moves away from where the bullets are impacting. But before he can pull the trigger, something slaps his hand. He barely hears the single word amid the gunfire, "Run!"
And so he does, weaving around the machinery and crates towards the back door.
Behind him he hears an explosion, blue light colours the fog.
He pushes on.
Dark smoke is funnelling outside the broken windows and holes of the warehouse. The sun is beginning to set.
Geo shouts, "Hurry up!" his group begins to sprint down the side street that they are on. The group can hear explosions and gunfire now.
A massive explosion rips large opening in the warehouse's wall, its roof even sags over the opening, from the lack of support.
Yet from the smoke, the Red King leaps forth. He lands heavily, but still on his feet. The rescue team is first frozen in shock, but then begins to rush forward.
The Red King raises his arms, waving them in circles and directing them back the way they came. He mouths a single word, Run!
Then he begins to run, rushing past his followers, who quickly turn and begin to follow him.
Amid the devastated warehouse, the four Bodyguards are kneeling with heads down, while Cane stands before them. Everything is painted in the setting sun's colour.
"I won't say that I am disappointed. But..." he trails off momentarily, "But what the fuck was that!? You were selected to be my elite! How the fuck could you take so long to react?"
A Bodyguard with light blonde hair speaks up, "We reacted within seconds, it was unexpected, and the explosion-"
"Shut up! That is no excuse! If your enemy acts before you, it means you failed. It is that simple," he lets out a deep breath, "This program has been a massive failure. It will need reevaluating. Come."
Cane turns around, then begins to walk away. His Bodyguards stand up with hanging heads, but they do as they are told.
The Silver King is sitting on the front of an old metal boat as the whole thing slowly moves through the water. The other people on board the small vessel are keeping clear of him. He is holding a package.
He pries at it with his good hand, peering inside. He sees a light grey cloth.
He lets the package go back to it's resting position, then reaches into a pocket. He pulls out a folded piece of paper.
Opening it, he reads the message once more.
Gift. Replacement. We should meet. Friend.
His eyes linger on the signature.
The Yellow King
Thank you for the feedback, it is very useful (and gives me some clear things to aim for regarding my writing).
CC mentions sharing short stories, so figured I'd just put it here (since it gets less attention compared to the writing workshop, specially considering the contest threads that are all there right now). Altho other than that, I guess it does make more sense in the WW.
In your post it seems nothing regarding dialogue punctuation was mentioned, which means focusing on it at the moment shouldn't be my priority, or there are no major flaws in it (that stick out), either way glad that it didn't detract from the whole thing.
Just to share some further thoughts regarding the feedback, I feel that the way I set up the beginning fails to lend itself to the whole establishing stakes thing. If I were to try and rewrite it, I'm not sure how to go about getting it fixed, unless I tried adding in more scenes (potentially). Just not really sure what a good way to go about adding in stakes is. Maybe in the opening part something more could be mentioned regarding why the Runner's report matters.
Would just mentioning stuff like the warehouse being on the boarders of Red/Blue territory, and changing it to not be a steel warehouse but a place where bullets can be manufactured be better (since bullets are supposed to be somewhat rare, which I guess is undermined by having the only two people w/ special guns fight >->)? Hmm come to think of it, I should just try and get more about the world across, since it seems to me that would help bring up the stakes. I just don't want to be spouting exposition the whole time, which I feel I could do easily enough.
If you got this far (any reader), any advice for avoiding exposition dumps?
I feel part of my problem is that I was trying to rush to some sort of action, but failed to establish any reason for the reader to care about the action, which made it fall flat. However I'm sure that bombarding the reader with constant setup + exposition would also end poorly. Any advice for planning things out? Storygames obviously require more thought, but any general things for helping set up a good plot?
TL;DR Ty for the feedback, very useful. Any advice for avoiding exposition dumps? Any advice for planning things out?
Since I feel I left a lot of things vague/unmentioned, I can't wait to see the way you set it all up and the way you build upon it. Should be interesting!
One part regarding the feedback I forgot to mention was characters. I seem to always try and describe them too much, since I worry if some part of their outfit comes into play later it will be immersion breaking if you didn't know of it beforehand. ie. takes glove off and slaps person. If you don't know they have a glove, wouldn't that be jarring? (Probably not, and this example might be too hypothetical).
Anyway I really need to pay more attention to how others go about introducing their characters. So it will also be interesting to see how you go about doing precisely this (specially if you keep the characters generally the same).
TL;DR Can't wait to see your take on the setting, since I'll admit that settings are pretty important to me (tho characters are too... so guess that doesn't say much). I also definitely need to figure out how to introduce characters well.
P.S. Because I might as well mention it, I've had two attempts at turning this setting into a storygame (before writing this short story), and both times it starts off slow, which might be part of the reason I tried to get to the action quickly (hmm, this is starting to sound like an excuse, what I actually meant to imply is that I got plenty of head cannon for the setting, so I'm pretty glad you liked it (even if not much was revealed all in all)).
Comments that disagree with my analysis are perfectly fine, it isn't horrible to give honest thoughts (specially considering I'm no expert by any means, so it is pretty much a given that there is a lot I need to work on).
Feedback for the story is also great (since improvement will come slow without it), so guess both is best (if you don't mind, since it is obviously also the most work).
However, I will say that I feel just feedback on the story would also work well, since it should be clear enough if parts are going against some of the things I mentioned in my analysis (it would just be less direct than specifically talking about the analysis).
TL;DR Story feedback will sort of cover analysis feedback as well, so guess it is the best choice (if you don't want to do both), tho feel free to do both if you want. All feedback is greatly appreciated.
P.S. In retrospect, I should have made all this clearer in the opening two posts.
If you feel you are spending too much time on it, you can always just post what you managed to get done (unless you have better commitment capabilities than me, and so want to & can finish it).
Any feedback is immensely helpful, as it will (hopefully) shape all my future works/thoughts, as it tends to be pretty universal (ie, have stakes).
I tried rewriting the beginning with what feedback has been provided so far, and while it isn't perfect, it is much better than what I had to begin with. Just knowing stuff to keep an eye out for (good, bad or even neutral) is invaluable in helping one write better (in my opinion).
TL;DR Any feedback is great (and appreciated). Don't feel pressured to provide the absolute perfect explanation of everything, since all in all, there is just so much to cover (regarding writing as a whole,) that it would be impractical.
Wow, you weren't kidding when you said it was long (in the other post).
Since I'm pretty sure me responding to every question isn't what you want (after all, it would mostly just sound like excuses,) I'll try to keep this short.
This is immensely helpful, since it points out some major flaws with my writing that I was pretty much oblivious to. There is a lot I can get out of this, so it'll give me plenty of things to work towards improving.
(100% necessary) TL;DR I seriously appreciate this, thank you for taking the time to write it all up.
I have a feeling that this is a lot more useful to me than you seem think. Sure writing styles can vary, but there is still plenty they share in some regards.
Just to mention one overall point, it is interesting to see how you improved the start without actually changing the general 'story' (as in, still starts in same place, with a lot of the same information being covered, and same characters). Goes to show pretty much anything can work if written properly.
I find it interesting since when I tried rewriting the beginning, I sorta just assumed it couldn't work and changed things drastically (well, drastically in comparison).
Yet it seems it didn't need as much things getting changed to work. Granted, given my initial minimal information sharing approach, it would be pretty hard for you to rewrite the scene in a majorly different way without potentially changing the story/setting too much. However, I'm still somewhat surprised to see, essentially, the same beginning, just actually good.
Also thanks for taking time out of the contest to provide all this feedback. I should probably avoid making posts during contests, as it isn't like I am in any sort of rush (and some people might not have time to respond if
I do, which I just realised).
TL;DR This is more useful than you think (probably). Good luck with the contest, and thank you for spending your time(/typed words) on helping me out.