I know that some of you folks have actually read the fiction I’ve been writing, the fiction that I’m calling “Converging Forces” and to which I link on the BBB sidebar.

Most of you probably go “oh, it’s a wall of non-WoW text, pass”, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Especially considering how much time passes between new chapters.

What can I say? It’s a lot easier to get distracted by current events that would make a quick, topical post than it is to write continuing fiction. Good intentions, and all that.

I’m finding having a blog to feed posts into tends to eat my “let’s get writing” impulses. I sit down to write story, and write a post instead. Blogs. My personal creative writing nemesis.

Regardless. The more time that passes, the more serious I’m getting about wanting to put my creative writing ahead of blog posts. I think about the story, the characters, and the flow of events quite a lot. I’m constantly writing the story in my head, to the point that it always feels current to me. When I check to see the dates on my last updates, it always comes as a big shock.

“It’s been HOW long?”

Anyway, this goes out to any of my readers who have read the Converging Forces story (as it stands now), and still read the blog.

Could you give me feedback on the story?

I’m wondering how someone outside my head sees the story in terms of;

  • Complexity (too complex and hard to follow, too simple and easy to anticipate).
  • Character development.
  • Character likeability (It’s not a goal, the characters are who they are, but I’m curious to see if either of the main characters are simply unlikeable, and people wish they were gone, or if they are interesting or intriguing, or if, even better, they’re in any way original).
  • Pacing – no, not how often I’m posting updates, but just the pace of how events are progressing and building.
  • Story – Is this story interesting to anyone else out there at all? When I break down the events, there really hasn’t been a lot of action for the sake of action, you know? How interesting WAS the exchange in the supply section of the old keep, anyway? Was it just, “Good lord, blah blah blah”.
  • Action – my descriptions of combat… good, bad, horribly confusing, okay, etc.

I’d just like some actual feedback, honest feedback for what works and what doesn’t in the story,  because I really am writing creatively for the first time, and trying to translate the images in my head into words. How things look on paper to me are undoubtedly drastically different from what you might think, because I know what it’s supposed to be like.

The biggest challenge I’ve been giving myself is to try and be as realistic about the emotions and personalities of the characters as possible. I’m not looking to write about cardboard cutouts of character archetypes, I’m actively trying to get into their heads. I’m taking the character descriptions Manny and James gave me, and the actions they want to take, and I’m trying to translate that into real people.

I often wonder if I’m being too ambitious, when I don’t have any previous writing experience for doing stories like this.

Any observations, your impressions, what works and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t, what rings true and what falls flat, would really help me out in growing as a writer.

Thank you very much in advance.

18 Responses to “I’m requesting some fictional feedback!”
  1. twww says:

    I <3 Converging Forces!

    Ok, so that's not terribly helpful feedback but as mentioned, it's been a while.
    I'm not a writer, never want(ed) to be a writer. I will never join a book club because I see no reason to analyze the books I read (gushing fangirlishly is different!).

    However, I will endeavor to re-read this evening (or more likely this weekend) so that I can try to provide something more helpful than "moar plz! squee!"

  2. Hana says:

    I admit I largely skipped over Coverging Forces because it was labeled PBeM and I figured there was no point to reading part of a play by e-mail campaign that I’m not involved in. I assumed (perhaps erroneously) that I would only be getting a portion of the story and it would be incomprehensible to me to only see the game from one player’s perspective, so why bother.

    I’m too far behind to really offer any constructive feedback at this point, but as another writer I think it’s excellent that you’re asking these questions.

    On your pacing question though… I think there’s a parameter you’re missing, and it’s really one only you’ll know. It’s important to keep the story moving, but another part of pacing requires knowledge of how long is the story going to be, because pacing works differently between a short story, a novel, and a novel series. Obviously you’re not writing a short story, but if you’re going to ask if events are moving fast enough, you also need to know where the end is.

    Maybe you don’t know the actual ending, but you probably have an idea of whether you’re halfway through the story, a quarter of the way, most of the way. If you realize you’re most of the way through, but there are several key characters that haven’t been introduced or an event that should have happened by now, then something’s probably wrong with the pacing, and you won’t need a reader to tell you that.

    You may have the opposite issue if you suddenly realize that you don’t have five chapters’ worth of material left when you thought you would and the end of the story comes out rushed, but I think from your questions you’re more concerned about being too slow than too fast.

    If you’re concerned about being too slow, one of the suggestions a working author once gave me was “Start the scene as late as possible.” If two characters are on the road to a city where they’re going to be confronted by their enemy, don’t start the scene with them leisurely doing small talk on horseback while they’re approaching the city (unless there’s important plot info in that small talk). Start at the city gates, maybe only a paragraph or two before the enemy shows up.

    I’m currently writing a story involving a thief and a particular heist he has to perform. My original intro involved him picking up information on the job, meeting the client, negotiating with the client, accepting the job, then heading out. My new intro? He’s already on the docks, in position to make the steal.

    Which is more dramatic? Which version is moving the story along faster?

    In the new intro the reader doesn’t know why he’s there or who hired him, but that information will still be there, just later in the story, and the new intro gets the plot out in the open that much faster.

    I’m not sure how much this helps, but hopefully some of it does. :)

  3. Qwicksylver says:

    Hey BBB,

    I didn’t know even had a story brewing or even a link to it. I saw the converging forces link and assumed it was like a link to another game blog or something in the realm of fandom I had no knowledge of. I must say I see that there is quite a lot to read and would really like to delve into it. I am a writer too and completely understand how it feels to be meaning to get around to writing but don’t. I have been stuck the chapter one of my most recent endeavor for nearly four months now. I never really like the way it turns out and keep rewriting it. I will give you feed back but I am no expert though.

    @Hana hey thanks for the tip I am going to try and write my chap 1 again with this premise and see how it goes.

  4. Cozy says:

    Okay, so you don’t want to me to say, “Yes, please, write more!”? Darn. It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog, nearly nine months after I quit WoW. I even check the sidebar regularly so I can be sure I’ve not missed one if you’ve been blog-heavy or I’ve been internet-lite.

    I’ll be honest and say that my feedback is from what I remember – so last time I read anything was January?

    Complexity – about right. Two stories, which I assume from the title will converge at some point – although the bad guys could be the forces referred to. You’re introducing the people and places and culture and history at a good pace for me to keep up so far, no having to flick back and say, “who was he again?” I’m aware enough of the general situation that I can start having an expectation of what a town/city/encounter with random passing peasant will be like, and I’ll usually be somewhere in the ballpark, unless you want to throw another dryad-curveball. Which is fine – she started neutral, and then got pissy. But that also worked since it was in response to what was going on.

    Character development – Jessie – my favourite. She’s young enough and new enough to the real world that she _is_ developing as a character. I just had a hint of John Ringo and David Weber’s Prince Roger there, not that I think that she’ll turn out that way, but more that she’s young and passing through trauma and changes as she grows up. Her development in terms of right and wrong, and acceptance of greys, is working for me.
    Character development – Terin. He’s old enough that I’m not sure that he’s developing (growing) as a character, we’re still just finding out more about what he’s actually/already like.
    Jessie is finding out who she’s going to be, Terin is showing us who he is, perhaps?

    However, from the other point of view of character development, the developmental/reveal points are decently spaced and proportionate to the plot points occuring. Jessie inside her own head is big development for her, and it’s a big thing happening. Terin mastering the quartermaster is small development, showing us a small thing that this guy knows the ropes and is unlikely to have the wool pulled over his eyes.

    Character likeability, briefly. I identify most with Jessie – her story so far has been the closest to epic in terms of events occuring. But I know that Terin is a guy I could count on. To quote Tom Clancy, “Good man in a storm.” Doing fine with them both. I’m disliking Samuel, even if my memory is telling me that he has reasons for being how he is. I suspect that I may be prepared to do that because I sense “baddie!” about him. He could always fall in love with Jessie and change his ways, though ;-)

    Pacing – aww, I want to politely ask for more frequent updates *sigh* Oh well. I’ll echo the commenter above me, Hana, although I’d not considered it til he or she said it. Partly I don’t know where the story is going, but I was assuming, with it being a PBEM, that you’d be wanting to get your characters together sooner than you have. But that implies that you’d railroad them, which I didn’t think or intend… I don’t know what the aim/end of the story is/will be, so I don’t know how close/well you’re getting to it. I enjoy reading it – I read about planned events (such as Jessie and the implant) and I want to know what’s going to happen.

    Story – might have covered already but I’m interested! I didn’t think “Good lord, blah blah!” for any of it, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. The supply section was useful insight into Terin’s knowledge of the lay of the land and his long military experience. I’m good with story!

    Action – can’t fairly comment here. Reads fine to me but I couldn’t comment on the realism or otherwise. Appears fairly low-fantasy to me, though.

    Final comment – I’m enjoying the story. If you’d published it and I’d bought it, I’d be more than happy with what I’ve read up to now for my money. In one sense, nothing I have said is constructive criticism, so I apologise for that. But for me, there’s nothing you could be doing better whilst still telling _your_ story. So – more updates when possible, convenient and not in the way of family life, please?

  5. Karen Palmer says:

    I just found the link to the entire story – so far. Having read your recent recommendations, I know we share the same taste in books, therefore I look forward to reading this. I’ll get back to you soon.

  6. DawnOfLight says:

    Ok i have read chapter one and i am HOOKED, HOOKED i tell you HOOKED!, on 1 – 10 scales on how the story is progressing so far i say
    Complexity – 9 (Very good)
    Character development – 7 (nice!) I like the character Jesse!
    Character likeability – 10 (Perfect)
    Pacing – 4 (Okay) Things in chapter 1 moved a little fast
    Story – 10 (Perfect)
    Action – 8 (Good!) Great job!

    Okay as for you doing exactly what i love to do, write fiction, most of my fiction is based on WoW though :( :)! I would like your feed back on the storys i have currently published on my blog! Please!

  7. Finwe says:

    It’s really been too long for me to comment fairly on most of your points, but here’s what I can remember.

    [b]Complexity[/b] – very good. There’s plenty of background and insight to give me a good idea of what’s going on with the character and with the world around him (her).
    [b]Character development[/b] – good. Like I mentioned above, there’s a good feel for what’s going on inside. At this point, I feel like I understand Jesse much better than Terin, though.
    [b]Character Likeability[/b] – very good. I really enjoy reading about both of the characters.
    [b]Pacing[/b] – On and off. I recall feeling like the start of Jesse’s story was a bit slow, but it did build up quickly. Terin’s story, on the other hand, pulled me in right away. It also feels like something in the back-and-forth is off a bit. I always think there needs to be more in each character group before swapping back. One last thing, the initial transition from Jesse to Terin was very harsh. I’m not sure if there’s any good way to help smooth the transition by mentioning something about the world around them as a common point during the transition.
    [b]Story[/b] – I love it. I recall waiting very impatiently for your blog post each Friday to see the next chapter in the story. The last couple dry spells have been particularly harsh, forcing me to ignore it for my own well-being.
    [b]Action[/b] – This doesn’t really stand out in my memory, so it was probably done very well with a good smooth flow. Thinking back, I can clearly see some of the key points in my head (Jesse and the orc, the dryad, the swordfight in the training camp), so my guess is that it was a clear description.

  8. Mannyac says:

    I’m liking the character growth, and life changing events. The interesting thing is the two (imo) different paces, Jessie is zooming along and Terin is kinda cruising. Fits their personalities though. I am enjoying the story within story. Of course, I do have a fair amount of input into plot direction (at least where Jessie is concerned) Can’ wait to find out what I/you did to Jessie.

  9. Pyewacket says:

    I’m addicted to Converging Forces – I’ve been suffering these many months waiting for the next one.

    Its been awhile since I’ve read them though so I’m not sure if I can comment very deeply. I agree with DawnOfLight – the characters so far have been very likable and I really like Jesse’s story and co-characters. I though the pacing was good and the story overall was excellent – the wait between the installments
    drove me a little crazy though cuz I would be dying to find out what happened next :D.

  10. Melpo says:

    I think I need to come visit some time and we can hammer out some more of Terin’s story. I think I’m to blame a bit for the difference in the amount of story out there for my character, but hopefully we can slam through a bunch and bring out his personality a bit more in the next few installments.

  11. Tracey says:

    Honest feedback, from someone who mostly gave up on your WoW blogging quite a while back. This is potentially very good. Ignoring the rough-draft issues like tenses/typos/random awkwardness, there’s a real story here. You have obviously imagined the world very deeply, but you’re content to allow most of the detail to come through as needed – no Nivien dumps here. I’m honestly excited to see Jessie’s internal growth be explored so vividly – so far you’ve resisted the temptation to over simplify or conveniently personify the challenges she’ll face. I’ve recently been reading about Tarot studies, so the personal growth via internal clarity is apropos.

    Regarding complexity and pacing, as Hana said, it depends. This feels like it’s quite early in the total story, but interesting things have happened and even more interesting things are hinted at. Keep the idea of a ‘story arc’ in mind, but I don’t have any specific objections so far. The individual chapters are paced well – for something that’s likely to be read serially, the reminder of the context at the start is important. That may change if you change the delivery format. You asked specifically about the supply warehouse scene – that felt like it was leading up to something important (the weapon master? his friendship? the sword? his opinion of the kid?) but whatever it was hasn’t happened yet.

    Characters: I like Jessie, of course. Fairly common revenge motif, but the mingled souls issue gives you something different to do. I don’t think I know Terin, yet. I liked him quite a bit in the School, but he’s been pretty non-committal on the road. I don’t *dislike* him. Bane interests me, as does the squire. I think I’m going to like the Hammer.

    Physical Action: Nice. You don’t lose track of where your character’s body is or have them randomly leave important bits behind. Combat so far is good – the 3-on-1 was clear and both the movement and the strategic intent were present. The mind-battle, which is much harder, worked almost as well. I don’t think the Maxtrix-style combat was well visualized, but the overall effect was satisfying. One piece of action that’s a bit weaker is during dialog – you tend to focus pretty intently on the main character, to the point that I don’t much see the people he’s talking to, after the initial description. They don’t (as least, my impression — I’m not looking at the text right now) get a lot of descriptors during the interaction. One exception to that was the Orc convo Jessie overheard from behind the stump. Those guys were quite active!

    Bottom line: totally worth your effort. Badly wants to be edited, and you might consider handling the character shifts differently – bigger blocks? It’s so early now, it’s hard to say about that part. Reminds me just a little bit of Jim Butcher’s Calderon series – the flavor of the world and the politics, perhaps.

  12. bigbearbutt says:

    I’m back from vacation, and while email will still take a while to answer, I wanted to thank all of you for your excellent feedback. Tracey, your comments in prticular help me get an idea of how things are perceived from outside my head, and I thank you.

    Amusingly enough, I just started reading the Jim Butcher Calderon series for the very first time a few weeks ago. Very fun, great setting.

  13. bigbearbutt says:

    Oh, and as far as the difference between how much of Jessie you see, as compared to Terin… you hit the nail on the head when you describe how unwieldy it is. Unfortunately, since I act on character feedback from the players… when james is swamped with family and school and work, Jessie takes center stage.

    Your points on the way it badly needs editing is also well taken. Some of this came from IM chat live, then copy/pasted into Word, a lot of tense issues came from that, and of course there’s the fct that i was only e4ver writing it for two other people to see… so I didn’t sweat the typos too much.

    Eventually, once everything is ties up into a balanced end of the first “book”, I’ll restructure the pacing of the two characters into a more balanced flow that matches a shared timeline a bit better. And hopefully edit it then too.

  14. Tracey says:

    Thanks for the positive response, BBB. I was feeling like such a little girl for my post-submission fear that my comments were too negative and I might have hurt your feelings… I’m happy to know you heard what I meant to say, instead of what I feared you’d think.

  15. bigbearbutt says:

    Well, I will admit to confusion about what you might have meant about giving up on my WoW blogging a while back, but since I know that my WoW blogging has changed drastically since the days when I first started, and I know why it has, I can’t argue with anyone that isn’t happy with the changes in article quality/style over the years. Things have definitely changed around here, no question.

  16. Tracey says:

    I made the comment about not being a regular reader as, basically, a claim to non-fanboi status. I read here regularly a year or more ago, and gradually just found less of interest – changing WoW trends or whatever. So whatever thoughts I had to share about your fiction were going to come from a different kind of reader than you might have expected. Somehow it seemed relevant then – not sure it does, now.

  17. bigbearbutt says:

    ROFLMAO!!!

    I just figured you were saying you gave up on me because my WoW posts were crap!

  18. Tracey says:

    LOL! So much for my admiration of your steel-plated toes (the kind you don’t even NOTICE when people step on) – you totally did take it personally!

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