“That ties with my difficulties with story beginnings. It's difficult to find a balance between being too slow and jumping too fast in the middle of the action. In this story this is only emphasized, since this is a later edit of one of my first stories, and some crudeness of the original was left in.”
Story beginnings are difficult, I agree with you. They are so terribly vital. You lose or keep your reads in the matter of a few paragraphs, so what you make those few paragraphs are is a hard choice. Going back to edit old stories is a challenge. When you’re writing the original in the moment, you’ve sunk yourself into the character’s head and can taste their emotions as you’re writing, but going back to edit you can often be just that small step back.
“But also, I tend to be over-cautious with veering into the realm of maudlin melodrama, which is why I still often use too bland descriptions of emotions.”
Ah, then it’s a writing choice. I can understand that, everyone has their own style. Maybe then it would work to just go with showing us visibly how a character is affected by emotions? Like clenching hands, tightening mouths, stiffening shoulders ect. But ultimately it’s up to you what you like best, and you make a good point about balance. If you don’t want to take us as deeply into the character’s thoughts but let us infer from their actions what they are feeling, then you probably won’t want to spend a lengthy amount of time with this stuff, but at the same time you want the reader to see clearly the whole picture.
I am glad something I said could be slightly helpful, and it’s wonderful that you can see how much you’ve grown as a writer that you feel the need to go back and re-write :D
I read your profile before I read this story and I saw you were asking for critic, and thought I’d give you my best shot. Firstly, I’ve never set out to write a critic before of another writer’s work, so if I make a disaster of this or offend you somehow I apologize because that was never, never, my intent. Secondly, I do not claim to be some amazing writer myself, this is just going to be my gut feelings from a reader’s POV.
I love how detailed your fight scene is, and yet you didn’t go over the top which is so key and something you mastered. You didn’t give us a blow by blow of something that would be happening rapidly, and especially for the character caught in it, almost too quick to process. This is something I think is a strength of yours. You also have some great imagery like this: ”the first siege ladders were raised and the Orcs came up, like a black, poisonous wave rising against a sea-shore cliff.”
I read this chapter twice, the first time I read it I will be completely honest with you: I stopped reading. But then decided to come back to your story. The reason I stopped is because I had no emotional tie to the character. It was just a character going through a battle scene, and without the background of emotional involvement I lost interest.
The thing is though, when I came back to read it again and got past the fight scene, I discovered there was a ton going on with this character. I loved the hints of walking the edge of sanity, the bleakness, the despair of these soldiers’ existence. You have this great emotional stuff that can suck me in, it’s just a little late in the chapter.
So maybe, before jumping right into the battle scene you could give us a little taste of this hopelessness, and these soldiers’ incredible spirit to keep fighting despite it all. I am not saying to dump Goerfin’s entire life history on us in the first few paragraphs, but show us what his character is like so we have some invested interest in his survival in the fight scene. It could be something as simple as a conversation with the soldier standing at his shoulder before the Orcs come up, something brief, but powerful.
“Goerfin was afraid” you had several statement of emotion like this, fear, pain, anger ect. I think it would be more powerful if you made us feel this fear alongside Goerfin. He’s afraid, what does that look like? It could be something as simple as his hands trembling or clenching bone-white about his sword hilt. Or you could go even deeper and make us feel that fear alongside him: it felt like his innards were being pulled up through his throat. I think you could go deeper with his conversation with his commanding officer too, you show us a glimpse of the state of his mind with his chilling laughter, but I’d love for you to suck us deeper than that. Shake his bones, press sickness to the back of his throat, have the despair uproot his thoughts and send them into disjointed waves crashing against the inside of his skull, just give us an idea of what walking in his shoes feels like.
I think this story has a lot of potential, and again, I hope nothing I’ve said offends you.
Author's Response: First of all, thank you for taking the time to write your insightful review! Secondly, you didn't offend me in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm delighted someone feels my writing merits putting thought into analyzing it. Then, let's get to your points: I actually think my action scenes quite carefully through, because for me they are among the most interesting to write. In those, I aim to give as vivid impression as possible while also preserving the big picture of the action. It's a bit of a juggle sometimes, but in this case it seems I succeeded. Yes, creating emotional bond with the characters from the very start is definitely one of my weak points. That ties with my difficulties with story beginnings. It's difficult to find a balance between being too slow and jumping too fast in the middle of the action. In this story this is only emphasized, since this is a later edit of one of my first stories, and some crudeness of the original was left in. Actually this chapter was the one I edited the least. Your suggestions to remedy above-mentioned flaws are good, and I will try to keep them in mind in the future. The statements of emotion thing comes partly from the admittedly a bit careless retouching process. But also, I tend to be over-cautious with veering into the realm of maudlin melodrama, which is why I still often use too bland descriptions of emotions. Again, the problem of balance. Your suggestions are good, and in my next project (probably a re-write of my very first fanfic) I'll be more liberal with emotional description. Thanks again for the review! I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the story.