So, the whole purpose of this thread is to let me know how terrible (or hopefully not that terrible) my writing is. I guess I have taken advice from some of you lovely people and finally have started to put some words on my pages, I'm counting 18 right now. These little samples are taken from the first chapter. I hope you people will give your honest opinion of the general flow, the dialogue and prose. Give me your worst and smelliest insults if you have some time to spare. I've read some brilliant ones in the forums.
1.0: excerpt one
Somehow you’ve gotten used to the hustle and bustle of the train station. The sounds of the different pipes and the shrieking flute of the machinist, once things you thought will never seize to amaze you, were now mundane aspects of your life. Your son, however, was still jumping up and down out of excitement. His eyes were shining the same way as your late wife’s did. She always said that his inherit curiosity and enthusiasm came from you, but you begged to differ. Beneath the veneer and prestige of being a doctor, you were just a simple man. Just when your mind drifted off to another memory, your son dragged you to the present.
‘‘Father, what was this city again? I know you’ve told me when we left the Western province, but I cannot remember the name anymore. I know we are in the central province and it is the place where the big politicians are living. The name was just on the tip of my tongue.’’
‘’Emile, you were daydreaming again? I told you not to do it during your geography lessons. You know, if you look at the surroundings you can figure it out yourself.’’
Emile pouted a bit, but quickly gained focus. His eyes first gazed at the perron and the two suitcases you were carrying. The train you had arrived from was already preparing to leave with the last passengers running to catch it on time. The train station was well-decorated with marble pillars and its walls were coated with a brilliant white paint. Like any station, it has a fair share of clocks to keep track of the time. Above every clock hung a small sign, adorned with a small sword and spear. Your son seemed to have spotted it too as he triumphantly pointed at the words displayed at the sign.
‘’Lux, the city of light, the city where the strength of the country lies and where all of our hearts are devoted to till every flying rat is slain.’’
You chuckled at his words. A small feeling of pride swelled in your chest, your son can already recite the work of great poets with minimal effort. That little twelve-year-old runt was growing up too fast.
‘‘I want give you some bonus points for your poetic attempts, but I believe I’ve heard it somewhere before? The words sound eerily similar to Gerdicus, but it can just be a slip of the imagination.’’
‘‘These are mine, I just took some creative inspiration.’’
‘’Small euphemism we got there.’’
Emile shrugged, a big smug smile displayed on his face.
‘‘Anyway, what’s the job they gave you again?’’
You picked out the envelope containing the letter of recommendation out of your breast pocket. The red seal with the emblem of Marenostrum’s parliament was still sticked on. The small sword and spear shone in the light of the sun.
‘‘A small health check-up of some of the ministers. Apparently their medical advisor died and they have yet to find a replacement. Within a week we will be gone and visiting uncle and auntie again.’’
‘’Then we will have some time to do some sightseeing right after we visit the ministers right? I bet that Lux also has a big library like the previous city we went to. I wonder if they also have Gerdicus.’’
‘‘Who told you that I will take you with me? It is important business and I’ve already told you beforehand that you will stay in the hotel till I’m done.’’
You took your pocket watch out of your jacket. The scheduled meeting will begin in less than an hour. A small grunt escaped your throat as you slowly realized that you didn’t have enough time to drop of your suitcases and your son in the hotel. Emile had also taken note of your irritation as his smug smile became wider and wider.
In a sickly sweet voice he said, ‘‘So I believe you will take me to the ministers and the local library.’’
‘‘Yes to the second one if we have some spare time and as for the first one…’’
You sighed and handed one suitcase to your son.
‘‘As for the first one, if you will hold on to this suitcase, we may arrive just on time to the parliamentary building.’’
His eyes began to shine even more than when you two stepped out of the train. With your free hand you gestured to him to follow you. As you were heading off to the exit, Emile eagerly began to hold your hand. Maybe this decision wasn’t so bad after all. You can surely figure out an explanation to your clients if troubles may arise.
You left the station
Just as you were crossing the city square that was connected to the station to find a carriage which was willing to bring you to your destination, you felt a small chill traveling through your spine. Your gut feeling told you that you clearly are being followed. You stopped walking. You can feel a worried tug coming from your son and you can sense that he’s speaking to you, but you cannot make sense of the words.
You can feel your body urging you to turn around and so you did. A figure wearing a giant bird mask and a cloak made of small wooden panels was standing in front of you. He held a worn-down notebook in his hands. Your son didn’t seem to see him as he frantically gestured towards one of the carriages.
‘’So player, I can assume you are a bit unfamiliar with this game and its mechanisms?’’
You clutched your forehead as a throbbing headache appeared. The mirage you just saw, the image of the figure with the bird mask erased itself from your memory. The pain eventually resided. There was something you’ve clearly forgotten, but you reassured yourself that it must not be very important.
‘‘Father, father we will really be late if we don’t leave now.’’
Emile tugged at your arm. His voice shook the slumbering parts of your mind awake. You grabbed your pocket watch and saw that the long handle has moved fifteen minutes. Haste must certainly be made if you did not want to be late.
You grabbed the nearest carriage and slapped some Cenz in the driver’s pocket, while Emile threw your suitcases beneath the bench. Within a few minutes hooves of the horses began to clatter on the pavement. As you two leave the city square and its station behind, a new landscape arose.
Emile’s last sliver of irritations seemed to disappear with the change of scenery. He was rather occupied with the view of the remnants of the outer city wall and the small glimpse of the cliff the majority of the city was literally carved into, many of its houses probably never feeling the sun’s warmth. Many steep roads and narrow pedestrian stairs decorated the almost vertical wall which circled all around the great lake. The area the station was built on was one of the few parts that experienced broad daylight. It housed plenty of shimmering boulevards and static townhouses.
Emile’s finger pointed at the small figure in the horizon, sticking above all other buildings.
‘‘What is this thing? Is that the parliamentary building?’’
‘’It is probably the light house of Lux.’’
He twigged a bit with his thumbs.
‘‘Ah, the infamous light house, it looks a bit different than I’ve expected. I wonder if that thing is the reason why Lux is called Lux.’’
‘’Well the story goes that the city is a beacon of light for all people who want to seek…’’
Emile interrupted you and cheerfully completed the sentence.
‘‘refuge and wealth and together we will purge the traitorous flying rats and all of their sympathizers who seek out to destroy our glorious republic of Marenostrum.’’
‘’I see that you’ve remembered the words of Gerdicus well.’’
‘’Father, your brain must have gotten older now. The words come from Levit.’’
‘’My brain is only thirty-five years old.’’
Emile pretended to pinch his nose. His flapping arms gave his performance a further dramatic flair.
‘That’s twenty-three years’ worth of brain rot. I can already smell it.’
Your son suddenly stopped with his little antics. The smell of rotten fish and water flooded your noses. Emile visibly scrunched his nose. In an attempt to escape from the air of decay, he grabbed his handkerchief to breathe through it.
‘Oh, by the death of the flying rats, your brain must be infested with auntie’s special edition fish head soup.’
Sometimes your son never ceased to amaze you. Insults in even one of the most dreadful circumstances.
You took another waft of the surrounding air. The scent of the lake and river was heavier than you had remembered or maybe your memory of the city had faded. It had already been ten years since you’ve visited the capital.
‘’The scent certainly is characteristic of this city. The air of the Western province is nothing compared to Lux.’’
Emile nodded half-heartedly as his mind began to settle with the fish scent and switched to be a little bit more occupied with the surroundings. You could almost hear his heart beating as his blue eyes stared with full focus beyond the city scape and onto the growing silhouette of the lighthouse in the horizon. Every time Emile had one of these moods, you could almost hear your wife say that such blue eyes, so focused and filled with passion, were proof that he was your son. Secretly you knew that the color wouldn’t last as you noticed that the golden ring in his iris, once a mere speckle during his toddler years, was slowly expanding and revealing his heritage.
As the carriage headed further and further into the city center, your memories came forward. The buildings seemed so familiar, but foreign at the same time. Above the doors hung miniature wooden swords and spears, small ornaments you once also bought as a good-luck-charm. The designs, however, seemed to be slightly different. The curls weren’t at the place you remembered and the small roses were replaced with lily’s.
Time quickly flew by as your gazes lingered and settled into the many appearing and disappearing houses, other carriages and the people walking on the streets.
Ah, I know why this looks weird, you're using smart quotes!
Nothing wrong with that, but I ended up turning them off on Word because they clashed with something (I don't recall what, probably with not using the RTE?).
Seems good to me, but it'll depend on the flow of the rest of the pages too.
Consistency is the main thing, since some stories do flow slower than others, and this doesn't have to be bad. But I can say that the shorter term flow does look good to me (but then again, I'm not the best person to ask about that sort of thing).
With that said, flow ties into pacing, and having some scenes paced faster than others (by, say, using shorter sentences for an action scene) is all about creating what you want from that scene. Having just one monotone style for the whole thing can easily become dull, so while consistency is great, it isn't the be-all and end-all.
Technically looks good to me, nice!
I do think 'refuge' should be capitalised where the son is completing the sentence, because while he is completing a sentence, punctuation is a thing that exists for writing, and the writing on the page has his dialogue as its own sentence (there is a literal full-stop before this line, where a different sentence ended).
Actually, I think it might want to be this:
Emile interrupted you and cheerfully completed the sentence, ‘‘Refuge and wealth and together we will purge the traitorous flying rats and all of their sympathizers who seek out to destroy our glorious republic of Marenostrum.’’
Altho it might read better as:
‘‘Refuge and wealth and together we will purge the traitorous flying rats and all of their sympathizers who seek out to destroy our glorious republic of Marenostrum,’’ Emile interrupted you and cheerfully completed the sentence.
Anyway, that aside, I guess I might change one other thing, but I'm not sure if it is just a style difference, but I'll mention it anyway (for you to consider, but changes are not necessary):
I always underestimate kid characters and wonder why a twelve year old is using the word 'infamous', as if it were a difficult word. I guess it's because I think of 12 as being younger...for some reason. Anyway, my point (and why I bring this up) is: stay aware of the character who is speaking and how that will affect their speech (although generally avoid writing in a way that you misspell stuff to match some 'accent').
I don't think there are any issues with this here, but as you add more characters to the story, if everyone speaks in the same way, it can make differentiating them harder. Gower mentioned in his Sweet Style article: 'A character who speaks only in sweet style will be very recognizable (and probably pretty annoying)!'
You don't need to use sweet style to have recognisable characters, but just thinking about how your characters speaks is sometimes overlooked, despite having a lot of potential to impact how a reader experiences the story.
Anyway, I think the characters interact well, and their exchanges revealing more about the world is neat.
Hmm, HMM, I think someone more knowledgeable could help you out here, perhaps Gower. Anyway, I'll give it a shot, but beware my biases!
I guess my issue is that you seem to be writing in past tense? I'm mostly familiar with present tense, and generally don't pay much attention to tense beyond trying to reword something that reads badly. Anyway, I can't figure out if you've got mistakes in your use of tense or not.
Here's an example:
you felt a small chill traveling through your spine (is this even wrong?)
Google tells me traveling is: 'gerund or present participle: traveling', but you can bet I had to google what gerund and participle meant (which is why I suggested Gower above as someone who could offer confident help).
Anyway, you wouldn't write: you felt a small chill travelled through your spine either. But is:
you felt a small chill travel through your spine the correct wording for past tense? I don't know!
I guess my advice is, see if others point out anything regarding prose/tense not being quite right, and if they do, go revive Gower's help thread with some specific questions (to help iron out any mistakes that may or may not exist!).
I will say that if there are mistakes with this, they're not obvious ones to me, so I could just be trying to find mistakes that don't exist to pretend my advice is useful.
However, here's an actual mistake, towards the end: lily’s should be lilies! Lily's either expands (where the comma would shorten something), or it signifies possession. The plural of lily is lilies (replacing the y with ies). You didn't say rose's earlier, so that's your clue you made a mistake, I guess.
They seem to follow each other? If they are consecutive, why are they considered separate excerpts? Just curious.
My guess is that something does happen between the two, but I have no idea what! I hope it isn't some meta thing, but then again, meta stuff can be handled in an interesting manner.
If there is a middle thing, I'm curious why it was omitted.
I, too, have used Lux as a name--both for a place and a character--but that doesn't mean seeing it doesn't make me cringe a little.
I guess using Latin like that is fine, it is a short word and all, but I will say that because of that, using other Latin words elsewhere could be a neat way to tie the name into the world. Some settings don't have Latin in their history, but the idea is that the words are similar/tied-together through literal history, which might make them fit together better than something you come up with (but things can be made-up well too).
Alternatively, have it be Lux because it means light and do nothing else with its connection to Latin.
Or, perhaps make a different word for light, perhaps based on the culture that's inspired this location. Lots of options!
Latin just seems to be a popular choice for naming...but I guess there's a reason for that.
I liked the mention of 'most dreadful circumstances' regarding your son, mainly as I imagine the circumstances will become a lot more dreadful than some bad smell in the later parts of the story, aha.
It can also be an interesting piece of foreshadowing regarding how your son might react in future scenarios, either as a more literal example, or to serve as contrast for future events.
This wasn't really a nitpick tho, that's right, I've gone against my formatting!
I'm curious what 'worst and smelliest insults' (if any) you'll get here.
This looks very solid, a full storygame with this quality would be great (assuming, of course, you don't mess up the choices, or have the actual story itself become stupid, lol). Anyway, 18 pages is good progress. Are they all around this length?
Regardless, I'm more hopefully about you actually writing this thing now, so you've got me more invested in this project.
My advice regarding that is to try to write consistently, but obviously, do whatever works for you.
My expectations grow! No pressure.
Gosh thank you for typing this all out. I'm kind of surprised (in a good way) by your response. It has gone through so much depth. So I'll also go by some of your points and give you a proper reply.
I haven't really thought about having different sets of speech styles in characters before, but now that I think about it a little more, I think that it is a great idea! I exaggerated the speech patterns of some characters now a little bit more to really distinguish them. Also added a small section about that in my reference sheet.
Regarding using the past tense, I also debated this to myself. I made a decision to stick to the past tense, because I liked how some verbs sounded in their past tense form. However I did notice that a lot of choose your own adventure style games use the present tense and so I get the odd feeling. I read that in Ogre;s reply too and he shared the same sentiment. Since the page count is still relatively low, such changes can still be made without a lot of trouble. Aargh, I really need to think about it a little more.
About the grammar mistake with the 'lily's', mistake on my part. It's my Dutch showing up again. Thanks for spotting that.
The name Lux
Okay, the whole naming-the-city-Lux part, it was pretty much an arbitrary decision. The whole world and the world building is actually a lot older than the story itself and was actually part of another story.
At that time, I thought that the name was pretty 'dope' (I still like the Latin which I guess it's because of the mere exposure effect). It has a nice ring to it. The name was also thematically tied to that older story, basically a small remnant of my previous outline. The whole Lux thing was because of the old lighthouse in the city played a much bigger role in the story.
I'm now thinking up a name that is thematically a little bit closer for this story. The city basically has kicked out the king and has become a republic. Based on other historical examples, it wouldn't be very unlikely for the city to get rid of the old name and thus have two names. One old one, which name probably translates to ''insert-name-first-king-here's city'' and one new name, which the inhabitants currently use. I have to brainstorm on that last name for a little bit.
Length of chapters
Generally yes, I personally don't really like to read a wall of text in storygames, but I still want to have the space to flesh out some of the characters and story. So I thought that setting the page length at maximum around 1,5 pages except for the endings might be a good enough balance.
The missing part between the two excerpts
You guessed it. It is pretty meta and the only meta part of the story.I don't really like the idea of throwing the player a bunch of dry information about stats. Since some stats really need a bit more explaining, I had been thinking about a little more engaging way to relay that information to a player.
The birdman is basically the tutorial bot who gives the whole stat lingo to you, but you are technically still in character. So the doctor, you are playing as, is probably very confused as the birdman asks you whether you know all the stats or whether you just want to skip the tutorial. You are also given the option to still act in character during the conversation. At the end of the exchange he erases your memory and the story continues.
In story, these birdman are just mythological creatures and are part of the folklore and fables parents tell to little children.
Many thanks for the feedback! If you don't mind, I'll let you know when a bigger portion of the story is finished.