This is Comic Related, Right?

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This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby JSConner800 on Tue Jun 10, 2014 1:07 pm

Hey everybody. I assume this is the best place to put this, because we've got several random art promotional threads in General Discussion, but the only art I know how to make is with words, and I'm not sure if that's allowed. However, I've just broken up with my girlfriend and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, so I'm not inclined to give much of a shit about technicalities right now. Anyway, I've been working on a short fiction piece in collaboration with Dan Sharp of the Demon Archives for awhile and today we posted the final entry. I think it's one of my best short stories - if not the best - and I'd appreciate it if you fine guys and gals took a look. Aside from the comic creators raving about it, I haven't gotten much feedback, which is about par for the course with my stuff. You don't have to know anything about the comic to understand the story, although it doesn't hurt. I could really use the feedback right now, but at the same time I don't want to guilt-trip anyone into reading my stuff, so feel free to disregard this if you don't have the interest/time/necessary limbs.

So, without further ado, I present The Undying Voice of Julius Gordon
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby Terotrous on Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:56 pm

I'll give it a look sometime soon, but Friday is my own writing night and I'm already too worn out to read anything.
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby Terotrous on Sun Jun 15, 2014 12:29 am

I'm not sure if you actually wanted a critique but I guess I'll do it anyway.


The first point I have is that I'd definitely work a bit more on the very first paragraph. It's very dry, and I really dislike the line "It had never been digitized before, for some reason". "For some reason" sounds lazy, like the reason it hasn't been done is just to move the story along. The real reason it hasn't been done is a spoiler that we find out later, so you should simply avoid mentioning the reason at all, "It had never been digitized before so I've taken the liberty..." reads fine.

The third paragraph of part 1 has way too many periods. For example, where it says "My Voice was inspired by the undying Voices before me. Surrounding me", that should clearly be a comma, "Surrounding me" is not a sentence on its own. The rest of the paragraph is filled with dozens of other examples, such as "The bombs never came here. Only the fallout, and the wild ones, and the storms." Only is referring to "the bombs", so it has to be part of the same sentence. Luckily there's less of this later on but there are still some instances here and there. I admit that I sometimes have this problem in my own writing, it's a product of "stream of consciousness" storytelling, but you have to watch for it in editing.

The editor's summary at the end of part 1 rubs me the wrong way. He heaps a little too much praise on the journal considering he's barely read any of it so far, so it sounds more like you're just praising your own writing. I think it'd be better for him to remark on the events of that chapter, or his surprise at finding an account of the curation of the Brynwood library. Actually, so far, I'm not really convinced that the framing device of the editor is really helping the story, it might work just as well without it.

Part 2 has another example of the same period issue: "My words have never rested easily in the air. They need a page to live on". Once again this should definitely be a comma. I'm not going to continue pointing these out, but you definitely have to watch out for them.

Part 4 further makes me question the narrative value of the editor character. He notes that he could explain the events of that section, but he chooses not to, saying that we will find out soon enough. If he's not going to move the plot along in any way, what purpose does he serve?

In Part 5, Gordon describes the rations as "thick bars of some bland but filling substance". This definitely seems like a missed opportunity for him to draw a parallel between the rations and some similar substance in a science fiction novel, as he draws many other such comparisons and many science fiction novels have similarly bland food.

Starting at Part 5, the pacing of the story changes drastically, Part 5 is longer than Parts 1-4 put together and is far more thorough, with much longer scenes and more elaborate prose. I also feel at this point it becomes much more interesting, so it may be worth expanding the events in Parts 1-4 to some degree to match this level of detail.

Part 9 gradually becomes filled with typographical errors, mostly missing punctuation. Perhaps this is intentional, as per the opening paragraph, but that also states it has been recreated from the original so presumably if there were errors they would have been corrected, and it's kind of distracting to read it like this in a way that doesn't really help the story. It would also help to state who H and B are because one character has both H and B in his name.

There's also no way Thalia's spelling and punctuation could be that terrible, as she's read a lot of complex books that someone whose grasp on written language was that tenuous would never be able to manage. Her writing is so heavily obscured parts of it are hard to understand, which is bad because it's all vital to the conclusion of the story. This is kind of akin to going completely nuts with someone's accent and tossing in all kinds of extra vowels and such, the general consensus is that a little of that goes a really long way and you should never do it to the point that it impedes the readability of the text.


Anyway, final thoughts. The work definitely finds its Voice in chapter 5, and from then on it's fairly compelling. The earlier parts could probably stand to be fleshed out a bit, in particular I think the setting definitely needs more attention. It took me quite a while to figure out exactly what had happened to the world and thus grasp the notability of Gordon's devotion to his books. There's an important line in the first part where he mentions that Science Fiction gives us a glimpse at a world better than ours which is clearly important but was somewhat lacking in proper impact because it wasn't totally clear at the time how much their world sucked.

As far as characters are concerned, Gordon is really the only really significant one and I think he's pretty well done. He has an interesting sort of moral ambiguity to him that I enjoy, while he may be correct in some of his beliefs, most of the criticism that he receives from others is also valid. I like the fact that the work is able to present his point of view without feeling heavy-handed or condescending, that's the mark of good speculative fiction.

I'm still not sure that the parts added by the editor really help the story. I think I would personally cut out all of them except for one paragraph at the beginning and one at the very end, and I would probably flesh both out a bit more. Gordon's account of the events in-between stands on its own and the editor adds very little to them. The one important point he does make about typical Minervan diplomacy can be moved to the conclusion.

There's also a number of various little writing issues that could use polishing up, mostly relating to sentence fragments. I considered the possibility that perhaps Gordon's writing is intended to contain some novice writing mistakes to show the fact that he wasn't formally trained, but unfortunately even if this is intentional I feel that it is very difficult to communicate this effectively. Only other writers will properly recognize that these are issues that writers struggle with, most other people will just notice that it somehow feels wrong or stiff but won't quite understand why. I think you'd almost have to have the editor call attention to it so the readers recognize that it's deliberate "Gordon's writing is a little rough, but it's amazing he was able to teach himself as much as he did", but even then I don't really think it helps the story. It's kind of the same as the issue with Thalia's letter, which is clearly intentional but mostly just gets in the way. Having people write and speak better than their level of education should allow is a really common willing suspension of belief issue, to the extent that most people wouldn't pick up on it if you tried to play it realistically.

Overall, I think the best parts are the ones where Gordon makes reference to the books that he's read. The part where he compares Thalia to Carrie and suspects she is trying to light his head on fire is a particular highlight, and I think this is also quite vital to the theme of the story, because it focuses on Gordon's Voice as a writer, and his ability to make these comparisons is the hallmark of his "writing style". He should probably do this a bit more often, there are some parts of the book where the writing is a bit dry and you almost forget that you're reading one character's personal account of the events.
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby JSConner800 on Sun Jun 15, 2014 11:25 am

I'm always open for a critique and this is much more thorough than I was expecting. I didn't think I'd entered this into WAY or anything :lol:

Anyway, I should probably point out first that I didn't write any of the editor's notes. Dan Sharp of the Demon Archives wanted to write them because he wanted to keep the voice consistent with the other editors' notes he's written throughout the lore section. It's not so much a framing device for my story as it is a framing device for the whole extended universe thing he's got going on. I would have done them differently, but I didn't see them until after they were already uploaded to the site, and I didn't want to be a pain in the ass and make him change them.

Terotrous wrote:The third paragraph of part 1 has way too many periods. For example, where it says "My Voice was inspired by the undying Voices before me. Surrounding me", that should clearly be a comma, "Surrounding me" is not a sentence on its own. The rest of the paragraph is filled with dozens of other examples, such as "The bombs never came here. Only the fallout, and the wild ones, and the storms." Only is referring to "the bombs", so it has to be part of the same sentence. Luckily there's less of this later on but there are still some instances here and there. I admit that I sometimes have this problem in my own writing, it's a product of "stream of consciousness" storytelling, but you have to watch for it in editing


It's certainly not proper textbook English, but language is malleable when it comes to creative writing, particularly if the context calls for it. Gordon, for instance, wouldn't be able to edit, because he's writing with a limited supply of ink and paper. If he finished a sentence but decided to pursue the thought, he'd end up with a sentence structure like what he has here. That might still rub you the wrong way, and there's nothing I can do about that, but it's a stylistic choice that I stand by.

In Part 5, Gordon describes the rations as "thick bars of some bland but filling substance". This definitely seems like a missed opportunity for him to draw a parallel between the rations and some similar substance in a science fiction novel, as he draws many other such comparisons and many science fiction novels have similarly bland food.


Agreed. Having free license to make a bunch of random literary connections in a story was perhaps the most exciting part of this project for me, but there were points that could have used a connection that I missed, either because nothing in my reading history jumped out at me or because I was focused on another part of the story. I was also concerned about overdoing it and bogging down the story with too many literary references.

Starting at Part 5, the pacing of the story changes drastically, Part 5 is longer than Parts 1-4 put together and is far more thorough, with much longer scenes and more elaborate prose. I also feel at this point it becomes much more interesting, so it may be worth expanding the events in Parts 1-4 to some degree to match this level of detail.


It's funny, I actually think the prose gets less elaborate as the story picks up, because Gordon is trying to relate a series of events rather than just explain his philosophy and revel in his own perceived march toward immortality. It does get more elaborate in the sense that there's dialogue, more characters, and more descriptions (of course, now Gordon is describing things he's never seen, rather than the everyday life that he so despises), so that could be what you're referring to.

Part 9 gradually becomes filled with typographical errors, mostly missing punctuation. Perhaps this is intentional, as per the opening paragraph, but that also states it has been recreated from the original so presumably if there were errors they would have been corrected, and it's kind of distracting to read it like this in a way that doesn't really help the story. It would also help to state who H and B are because one character has both H and B in his name.


Well, recreation is a tricky word that can either refer to copying something or repairing something, and in this case we were using the word in both senses. The words themselves are copied directly and preserved as they are, but the scribbled and disjointed line ordering has been fixed from the original. I was trying to convey Gordon's fury and urgency, but if the readability issues overshadowed this effect, then that's unfortunate. I kinda figured the speakers would be obvious, but it did annoy me that Hermann Brandt has both an H and a B. I just hoped nobody would think that Brandt was having an argument with himself.

There's also no way Thalia's spelling and punctuation could be that terrible, as she's read a lot of complex books that someone whose grasp on written language was that tenuous would never be able to manage. Her writing is so heavily obscured parts of it are hard to understand, which is bad because it's all vital to the conclusion of the story. This is kind of akin to going completely nuts with someone's accent and tossing in all kinds of extra vowels and such, the general consensus is that a little of that goes a really long way and you should never do it to the point that it impedes the readability of the text.


Yeah I was afraid of that. I might just rewrite it and have Dan upload it again.

Anyway, final thoughts. The work definitely finds its Voice in chapter 5, and from then on it's fairly compelling. The earlier parts could probably stand to be fleshed out a bit, in particular I think the setting definitely needs more attention. It took me quite a while to figure out exactly what had happened to the world and thus grasp the notability of Gordon's devotion to his books. There's an important line in the first part where he mentions that Science Fiction gives us a glimpse at a world better than ours which is clearly important but was somewhat lacking in proper impact because it wasn't totally clear at the time how much their world sucked.


I did write it to expand on Dan's fiction, but I also wanted it to be accessible to people who weren't all that familiar with it (not that most people who read it will be unfamiliar with the comic, except for people like you who I've conscripted into reading it blind XD ). I suppose that didn't really work out.

There's also a number of various little writing issues that could use polishing up, mostly relating to sentence fragments. I considered the possibility that perhaps Gordon's writing is intended to contain some novice writing mistakes to show the fact that he wasn't formally trained, but unfortunately even if this is intentional I feel that it is very difficult to communicate this effectively. Only other writers will properly recognize that these are issues that writers struggle with, most other people will just notice that it somehow feels wrong or stiff but won't quite understand why. I think you'd almost have to have the editor call attention to it so the readers recognize that it's deliberate "Gordon's writing is a little rough, but it's amazing he was able to teach himself as much as he did", but even then I don't really think it helps the story. It's kind of the same as the issue with Thalia's letter, which is clearly intentional but mostly just gets in the way. Having people write and speak better than their level of education should allow is a really common willing suspension of belief issue, to the extent that most people wouldn't pick up on it if you tried to play it realistically.


While Gordon's writing is intended to have some grammatical errors, they're not supposed to negatively impact the readability of the story. I was going for more of a Ray Bradbury-esque style of prose - his writing is a grammatical nightmare, but it reads like poetry. I know I didn't recreate his style exactly, but that was what I - and Gordon - had in mind. Gordon probably could have perfected his sentence structure, although editing would still be extremely difficult, but he wouldn't want to. He doesn't just want to survive through his words, he wants to become something beautiful. Whether he succeeds or not is, of course, up to the reader, and it didn't work for you, but I know it has for most of the people who have actually read the story, so I suppose this is one of those "can't please everyone" situations. I definitely agree with you about Thalia, though. I'm not sure how closely reading levels correlate to writing levels, but for the sake of readability I should just clean it up.

Anyway, I appreciate the detailed response, and thanks for reading!
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby Terotrous on Sun Jun 15, 2014 7:20 pm

JSConner800 wrote:It's certainly not proper textbook English, but language is malleable when it comes to creative writing, particularly if the context calls for it. Gordon, for instance, wouldn't be able to edit, because he's writing with a limited supply of ink and paper. If he finished a sentence but decided to pursue the thought, he'd end up with a sentence structure like what he has here. That might still rub you the wrong way, and there's nothing I can do about that, but it's a stylistic choice that I stand by.

I'm still not really convinced. One issue is that this particular section contains a far higher concentration of such issues than the rest of the text, which makes it seem more like they were simply missed in editing rather than it being intentional. This paragraph alone has like 5, and most other chapters only have 1 or 2. Actually, the writing style seems to change somewhat when it reaches chapter 5, I wondered if perhaps they were written by two different authors (you mentioned it was a collaboration), or if they were written a long time apart.

Also, purely from a penmanship perspective, it's actually very easy to change a period into a comma, just add a tail. Going the other way is the tricky one.


It's funny, I actually think the prose gets less elaborate as the story picks up, because Gordon is trying to relate a series of events rather than just explain his philosophy and revel in his own perceived march toward immortality. It does get more elaborate in the sense that there's dialogue, more characters, and more descriptions (of course, now Gordon is describing things he's never seen, rather than the everyday life that he so despises), so that could be what you're referring to.

I definitely found that the writing gained more personality as it went on. There's some playfulness and abstraction to Gordon's writings in the later chapters that seems less present early on, probably because these parts are much longer and there's more focus on Gordon's interpretation of those events.


Well, recreation is a tricky word that can either refer to copying something or repairing something, and in this case we were using the word in both senses. The words themselves are copied directly and preserved as they are, but the scribbled and disjointed line ordering has been fixed from the original. I was trying to convey Gordon's fury and urgency, but if the readability issues overshadowed this effect, then that's unfortunate. I kinda figured the speakers would be obvious, but it did annoy me that Hermann Brandt has both an H and a B. I just hoped nobody would think that Brandt was having an argument with himself.

You can completely fix the latter issue by having the text write the full word the first time, so it'd read:

"Hassan: Believe me, I’ve wanted to do it since we left HQ.
Brandt: Oh, don’t worry, Sergeant..."

From then on you can go with H and B.

As for the second issue, once again I think you walk a fine line with that because with all punctuation and capitalization removed it starts to become more difficult to understand, and again it's a pretty pivotal scene. Since the editor does claim he went to a lot of effort to put it back together I don't think much would be lost if it was fixed. Incidentally, my assumption was that the penmanship was deteriorating because Gordon's health was failing.


I did write it to expand on Dan's fiction, but I also wanted it to be accessible to people who weren't all that familiar with it (not that most people who read it will be unfamiliar with the comic, except for people like you who I've conscripted into reading it blind XD ). I suppose that didn't really work out.

Yeah, I didn't realize it wasn't supposed to be completely stand-alone. It's decently self-contained as it is.


While Gordon's writing is intended to have some grammatical errors, they're not supposed to negatively impact the readability of the story. I was going for more of a Ray Bradbury-esque style of prose - his writing is a grammatical nightmare, but it reads like poetry. I know I didn't recreate his style exactly, but that was what I - and Gordon - had in mind.

That's very tricky. With intentional writing errors, you've kind of got a catch-22. If you have too few, it seems like they're just things you missed in editing. To make it seem intentional, you have to have a lot, at which point readability starts to be impacted. To be honest, I really just don't think it's necessary. The parts where Gordon's writing seems to have the most character also tend to be cleanly written, his style comes more from his character and the way he expresses his knowledge and views through his writing than from grammatical correctness or lack thereof.


Anyway, I spent some more time thinking about the story since yesterday and one other thing I've realized is that the conclusion leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, what happened to Brandt and the rest of Gordon's people in the end? I also think there's a certain irony to this story in that Gordon disapproved of the digital library, and now his own work is being digitized and added to it that should probably be touched upon, even if only for the editor to ponder how Gordon would feel about it. Speaking of which, the first paragraph of the story states Gordon's work had never been digitized, while the final paragraph states it had been digitized and forgotten. I think the former is pretty clearly correct so that should probably be corrected.
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby JSConner800 on Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:19 pm

Terotrous wrote:I'm still not really convinced. One issue is that this particular section contains a far higher concentration of such issues than the rest of the text, which makes it seem more like they were simply missed in editing rather than it being intentional. This paragraph alone has like 5, and most other chapters only have 1 or 2. Actually, the writing style seems to change somewhat when it reaches chapter 5, I wondered if perhaps they were written by two different authors (you mentioned it was a collaboration), or if they were written a long time apart.

Also, purely from a penmanship perspective, it's actually very easy to change a period into a comma, just add a tail. Going the other way is the tricky one.


Everything that wasn't in italics was written by me, and the writing process was fairly continuous, so I'll have to take credit for this particular issue. I hit a patch of writer's block at one point, but I'm not entirely sure when that was. It could have been right around the spot where you found a change in styles. Of course, the first entry is written several months before any of the subsequent entries, and Gordon is still working out the kinks in his style. That sounds like an excuse, and perhaps it is, but I know I edited the first few entries thoroughly, since we didn't start posting until I had 6 entries done, and none of those points struck me as particularly jarring or out of place. Even in re-reading it, they don't bother me. Oh well.

You can completely fix the latter issue by having the text write the full word the first time, so it'd read:

"Hassan: Believe me, I’ve wanted to do it since we left HQ.
Brandt: Oh, don’t worry, Sergeant..."

From then on you can go with H and B.

As for the second issue, once again I think you walk a fine line with that because with all punctuation and capitalization removed it starts to become more difficult to understand, and again it's a pretty pivotal scene. Since the editor does claim he went to a lot of effort to put it back together I don't think much would be lost if it was fixed. Incidentally, my assumption was that the penmanship was deteriorating because Gordon's health was failing.


That's a good point, if/when I go back to fix up the last entry, I'll bring that up with Dan. And yes, Gordon's declining health is also a factor in his penmanship. Brandt isn't wrong when he assumes that Gordon won't last until the expedition returns to Kyrgyzstan. It's just not the only factor, nor is it the defining one.

Anyway, I spent some more time thinking about the story since yesterday and one other thing I've realized is that the conclusion leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, what happened to Brandt and the rest of Gordon's people in the end? I also think there's a certain irony to this story in that Gordon disapproved of the digital library, and now his own work is being digitized and added to it that should probably be touched upon, even if only for the editor to ponder how Gordon would feel about it. Speaking of which, the first paragraph of the story states Gordon's work had never been digitized, while the final paragraph states it had been digitized and forgotten. I think the former is pretty clearly correct so that should probably be corrected.


Well, some of the answers can be inferred (like the fact that Gordon stabbed Brandt and burned down the library) and some of them will be elaborated on later. Dan was so impressed with the story that he's decided to incorporate Thalia into the comic itself, and I'm going to continue writing stories for him, with the first one directly relating to her early training as a soldier in Aegis. The fate of Gordon's people will be explained more clearly in that story, and I'll be revisiting Brandt as well, since Thalia will have to work together with a young Oculus agent who reminds her of the guy who inadvertently brought about the destruction of her home. And you're absolutely right about the continuity error there. I'll mention that to Dan as well. Fortunately, the most egregious problems are all in the final entry, so we can take care of them all at once :D
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby Terotrous on Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:58 pm

Wow, somehow I totally missed it when he mentioned "a sharp dagger" in that last part. Maybe I shouldn't have been reading it at 4 in the morning.
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Re: This is Comic Related, Right?

Postby Warren on Sun Jul 06, 2014 6:55 pm

Terotrous wrote:Wow, somehow I totally missed it when he mentioned "a sharp dagger" in that last part. Maybe I shouldn't have been reading it at 4 in the morning.
Or using rum and cokes to stay awake.

Classic mistake.

You also need Redbull.
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