Application Discussion - Held in the Quiet Night by White Timberwolf
02/08/2017 10:54:23White Timberwolf Wrote: [ -> ]
- Fiction Title:
Held in the Quiet Night
- Link to your fiction page:
- Is your fiction over 100 pages?
It is 95 pages as of 02/04/17, according to the RRL Dashboard.
- What is your fiction about? Please give us a brief synopsis.
A former soldier finds an old friend within his territory, seeking a strong ally for protection from a group gathering others of similar ability or knowledge through precise application of force.
- Why do you think your fiction is atypical and qualifies for this group?
Non-human leads, plausible reality, descriptive detail into various actions or events, intriguing knowledge and topics.
Any questions you have for the author can be asked in the application thread. Otherwise, keep decision related comments to this thread.
Things to include in your endorsement or rejection:
- State whether you're endorsing or rejecting.
- Explain the positives about the fiction.
- Explain the negatives about the fiction.
- Give some suggestions on how things can be improved.
- Give some feedback on the story/plot itself.
- Any other thoughts you have that are relevant to the application. (Optional)
The writing in itself is fine to me, in terms of style. Sometimes the sentences veers a bit too long, I think, the details get so expansive that it impacts the flow of reading, but that's all.
Ultimately, it was the characters that decided against me. The two first characters we meet both feel too stereotypical and too much like wish-fulfillment. Their flaws didn't feel like actual flaws, just ways to make them seem more interesting. There was a lot of space dedicated to describing how physically attractive they both are. The conflict between them seems only to serve as causing romantic tension and thus doesn't seem believable as a conflict. Bottom line, the characters aren't convincing enough. They lack actual flaws, their conflict lacks actual tension, and their behaviour seems guided by the direction that the story wants to take, not by actual characterisation.
But I've seen enough to say this fiction is furry erotica, and unfortunately for the applicant, I have to draw a line between a story with sexual content and sexual content with a semblance of plot. So this is a rejection from me.
To be fair, this fiction has a very specific audience in mind, of which I am certainly not a part of. I read through four chapters before deciding I didn't wish to proceed further. There are many areas where this piece could be improved as a story, but I'm not certain that is the intended purpose of this work. As far as group membership goes, I'd recommend the following changes:
First off, the setting appears to be a reality where humans have been somehow substituted with beastmen. Things such as technology, location names, and military gear/tactics are very much what we'd see in our world today. However, the true link with our current reality is not clear, leaving a sense that the setting is half fantasy (with beastmen and magic) and half modern (with locations and technology). Adding some world building to clarify this connection would significantly contribute to a reader's immersion into the setting. At the very least, teasing at a connection can enhance their suspension of disbelief.
I read one action scene in chapter 1 which could use some polish. For the most part, the author has presented the scene well. However, there is a tendency to over-describe details which are not relevant for the reader. Namely, these are things like gun models and types of ammunition. (Seriously, nobody would stop think about the type of ammunition a rifle uses while in the middle of combat.) This serves more as a distraction from the scene for readers, when all focus should be on the combat itself.
Lastly, though perhaps most critically, the work needs to give indication that it's primary purpose is a story to be told, rather than sexual content which is shown. As is, barely any development is given toward character development or plot development before readers are shown a "highly adult content" scene, which is also why I question the intended purpose of this work.
I'll admit this may be prejudiced on my part to judge an erotica by standards to which it isn't written, but we've rejected many fictions with far better characters and plots for a lack of development thereof. Before the 'adult content' Chapter 5, I'd estimate that 80% of the text consisted of vague sexual tension with ample description of the two character's physiques, but with little, if any context or sense of their prior relationship or personal desires. This indicates to me that the sex is the only content of importance for this piece, and that the work is not a good fit for our group.
Speaking of conflict, does it ever get explained? I lost patience waiting for the female character to finish explaining how scary it is. Nearly every sentence in this fiction is burdened with unnecessary detail, grammatical errors, clumsy wording, and gaudiness bordering on purple prose.
Probably the biggest issue I took with this fiction was with the characters themselves. You've got the gruff, battle-hardened, emotionally damaged, former soldier, and the tough, but sensitive romantic interest. Outside of those roles, these characters have nothing. They're boring to read about, but that's not the only problem I had.
I feel like I have to explain this part pretty frequently to young writers. If you want a character to come off as cool and mysterious, you have to do it through his actions, or through other characters' perceptions of him, not through the character himself. When a character introduces himself as mysterious and dangerous, it comes off as self-aggrandizing, rather than genuine. In modern media, the only time you'll see a character claim to be troubled and dangerous, is in satire. It comes off as overdramatic and makes a character seem cringey and unlikeable.
In this fiction, the author has another character who knows the main character's rough situation. Instead of constantly having him refer to himself as a 'monster', it would be far more natural to have his companion say something along the lines of "They say you're a monster." This confirms that his reputation as a 'monster' exists somewhere outside of the main character's own head, and helps the scene feel less dramatic.
I'm not really going to touch much on the grammar. Find a tense and stick with it. Learn how to use commas. Also, leave the flowery language behind. This story reads like a bad telenovela. The MC is a military man. His dialogue should be terse and utilitarian. No poetry allowed.
Thanks for your interest in our group and for your patience during this application process. Our reviewers have read over 'Held in the Quiet Night' and have reached an agreement. Unfortunately, our reviewers found that many improvements need to made before we can consider the story for admission into our group. What follows here is a summary of our reviewers' opinions on this work, which we hope you take into consideration in your future writing.
Our reviewers had difficulty finding elements in the story to make it stand out as atypical. Stories with non-human MCs and tensions between races aren't the most common on RRL, but these elements aren't unusual enough to consider the story atypical based on those factors alone. Other aspects mentioned in the application, such as plausible reality and descriptive detail, are difficult to consider typical or atypical as they relate more to polish and execution rather than uniqueness of ideas. From what is shown in the work as is, our reviewers didn't judge the work as atypical enough to meet the group's expectations.
As far as TOPA requirements go, there are many areas where this piece could be improved as a story. The work needs further polish to give readers a clear indication of where the story is going beyond the sexual content which is shown early on; not much development is given toward characters or plot before readers are shown a "highly adult content" scene. Our reviewers found the characters most problematic in this regard. At a glance, the two main characters are the gruff, battle-hardened, emotionally damaged, former soldier, and the tough, but sensitive romantic interest. There was a lot of space dedicated to describing how physically attractive they both are, but outside of those roles, their behavior seems guided by the direction that the story wants to take, not by actual characterization. They lack actual flaws, and their conflict lacks actual tension, which makes their characters unconvincing and stereotypical. For readers, the story of these characters can be much more interesting if they were better fleshed out.
For a character to come off as cool and mysterious, it is better shown through his actions or through other characters' perceptions of him rather than through the character's self-description. When a character introduces himself as mysterious and dangerous, it comes off as self-aggrandizing, rather than genuine. In modern media, the only time a character claims to be troubled and dangerous tends to be in satire; such claims typically come off as overly dramatic and generally make a character less likable. In this story, another character already knows the main character's situation. Instead of having the MC refer to himself as a 'monster', it would be far more natural to have the companion say something along the lines of "They say you're a monster." This would confirm that this reputation exists outside of his own head and helps the scene feel less melodramatic.
In terms of plot, one reviewer estimated that 80% of the text in the first four chapters consisted of vague sexual tension with ample description of the two character's physiques, but with little, if any context or sense of their prior relationship or personal desires. This skewing of details suggests that the sexual content is of primary importance for this piece, well above things such as characters, plot, or aspects of the setting. Is the conflict ever explained? The conflict between the two characters seems to serve as more as romantic tension and thus doesn't seem believable.
Regarding world building, the setting appears to be a reality where humans have been somehow substituted with beastmen. Things such as technology, location names, and military gear/tactics are very much what we'd see in our world today. However, the true link with our current reality is not clear, leaving a sense that the setting is half fantasy (with beastmen and magic) and half modern (with locations and technology). Adding some conent to clarify this connection would significantly contribute to a reader's immersion into the setting. At the very least, teasing at a connection can enhance their suspension of disbelief.
Our reviewers also noted places for improvement in both grammar and style. Grammatically, there were some issues with tense inconsistencies and comma use. Stylistically, sentences in the text trended toward being too long. This can have a negative impact on the flow, when the details get so expansive that they distract from the main point of their content. This is especially the case for things like action scenes. For example, in Chapter 1, the narration goes as far as describing the type of ammunition a rifle uses. No one bothers considering such things while in the middle of combat, and these details prevented readers from focusing their attention on the combat itself. Likewise, the extensive, and at times poetic language doesn't match the main character. If the MC is a military man, one would expect his dialogue to be terse and utilitarian. Presenting him in contrast to this can disrupt a reader's suspension of disbelief until they better know him.
Due to these points, our reviewers found that "Held in the Quiet Night" doesn't meet our standards for acceptance. Again, we thank you for your interest in the Order of Phantasmal Architects. If you have any questions regarding this application or on writing in general, feel free to ask them here.