CRITIQUE WANTED Washing off the Rust

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#1
So, this thread might be in the wrong place, please let me know if it is, but it is both showcasing work and asking for help, and it's more like just a place for me to practice and get criticism on my practice? IDK.

The part in the spoiler is kinda long, but it explains what got me to this point so it might add some context to this thread. Feel free to read it or not read it at your own discretion.

Anyway, so I was looking back at a lot of my old writing, and I realized something substantial...I'm getting worse. And I think I've figured out why -- I haven't been practicing nearly enough. When I was 5, I would come home from school and spend HOURS every day working on my book. (Which I finished when I was 7, for anyone who was wondering. It was about a lot of stuff...Uhm, wolves, serial killers, voice boxes...to name a few that I remember. And some very cutely naive ideals about all three.)

Point is, as I grew older, I started to stop practicing writing because I was discouraged. I never finish anything. I'd keep on trying to write chapter books because that's what I loved, but eventually I branched into short stories, but I found that I'd still structure them like chapter books and it'd all fall apart, because I still childishly never want my stories to end. The only thing I could still find confidence in writing was my roleplays...Even though I never finished them, either, so my logic doesn't quite make sense... >.>

I wrote a lot of roleplays, and I mean a lot...I got to a point where I was almost confident with my writing skills... Although I still have a lot of things to pick at them with. But then I discovered something new...Poetry.

The last school year alone, I filled up six notebooks with poetry and nothing else. Most of it was junk, and the fact was that it wasn't what I wanted to do, even if some of it was actually really decent and worth sharing. But I still wasted my time on it. And while I still did my roleplays, they were much rarer, replies were slower, and in general I took on less of them. To some extent, I do enjoy doing poetry...But it's not what I want to do. As a career, I mean. I've always wanted to be an author...Not a poet. And while I can definitely be both, I don't want to just be a poet. That's when I realized. I've been using poetry as a distraction because what I really want is to hide from the fact that I don't have the dedication to finish anything unless I can write it in an hour. By writing poetry, I was tricking myself into thinking I was accomplishing something meaningful...But I wasn't using my time to do what I've always wanted to do--finish a book.

So I decided. I'd go back to writing prose. So, I put pencil to paper and started writing. And writing. And writing.

And I was really, really frustrated.

Why was my writing utter garbage? My writing was so much better than this! I knew it!

Or, it was better than this. Before I stopped practicing, that is.

So here I am. I'm washing the rust off my old writer joints and getting back to prose.

I'll start by showing you an old writing piece from at least a year ago or so. It's the starter for an action roleplay. It's terrible in a lot of ways, but it's better than what I can write now in a lot of ways, too. My goal is to get to the point where I can rewrite this scene and feel confident that it is better than the original. For the sake of keeping this thread tidy, it's also in a spoiler.

"Damn it, Pierce, don't leave me! Not you too! First mom, then dad and Karla...."


The desperate words the young silver-haired man spoke to his twin was accompanied by the distant sounds of rapid gunfire and explosions. The twin brother, lying on the ground over a puddle of blood, was pale, the hand that the panicking male gripped growing colder by the second. With one hand, Asher gripped Pierce's hand tightly, and with the other, he pressed a piece of his own sleeve down on the gunshot wound in a useless attempt to stop the bleeding.


"Asher..." Pierce mumbled weakly, his mind beginning to slip away.


"Shush, save your strength! You're going to make it through this!" Asher whispered back, but even as he said it he knew there was little hope.


The dying twin untied a small red ribbon tied around his wrist, handing it to Asher. Asher's eyes widened at the gesture, knowing exactly what it meant. "But....Pierce, Karla gave that to you!" He exclaimed, but his hand reached out to take it, anyway. Their older sister, Karla, had given Pierce the makeshift bracelet on her deathbed. To them, it symbolized hope, and the strong bond the three of them shared.


"Asher, you have to fight through this. Don't.." For a moment, Pierce's words were interrupted as he sputtered, blood dripping from his lips. Asher had given up stopping the bleeding, instead focusing intensely on his brother's dying words. "Don't lose hope. Don't stop fighting. I know you have it in you. You can do it..."


"No, Pierce, I can't do it without you--I can't....Stay with me!" Asher exclaimed, but Pierce's hand had already gone limp.


He was dead.



---------


"Police, open up! You have until the count of 3!" A loud, violent knocking on the apartment door awoke Asher from his fitful slumber on the stained couch, sending him flying into action. He shot up, grabbing the gun and the dagger off the coffee table in front of him and sticking them in their appropriate scabbard and holster on his belt, thankful he had thought well enough to sleep in his clothes.


"1!" The policeman at the door shouted, a sure sign that they weren't aware of all the crimes Asher had committed. If they had been, they wouldn't have bothered with the pleasantries of knocking. Asher ran to the nearby window, again glad he had been prepared enough to get an apartment as low as the second floor.


"2!" Asher fiddled with the window lock, cursing himself. It was jammed. In desperation, he grabbed a nearby can opener from the kitchen counter and slammed it against the lock, popping it open instantly.


"3!" Asher opened the window just as he heard the door being knocked down by a sturdy kick and heavy footsteps flooding into the living room.


"He's fleeing through the window!" One of the police officers shouted, raising his gun to shoot Asher just as he put one leg out of the window.


He pulled the trigger, the bullet piercing his backside and tearing through flesh. He lost his balance, falling out the window and sent tumbling down the two stories, his fall cushioned only by a leafy shrub, which did more damage than good. The sharp twigs poked at his injured side, and he found it long moments before he was even aware of his surroundings again.


"Did I tell you to open fire?!" A voice from upstairs scolded as Asher forced himself to his feet, stumbling over his own leg as his vision went blurry, fading in and out of focus. The adrenaline kept him moving, kept him on his feet. While the officers were wasting time pointing fingers, Asher stumbled out of sight, hiding behind the wall of another building as blood soaked through his shirt. The bullet had ripped clean through him, from back to front. As he took a few seconds to catch his bearings in the temporary safety of the alleyway, his only guide the rising moon and the lights of nearby buildings, he thought it almost ironic that tonight's nightmare would be that of his brother dying, in the same way he figured he would now. He resisted the urge to laugh at the thought, now that he was already growing delusional.


He made a desperate attempt to make a run for it, heading out of the alleyway and down the primarily empty streets of the shady neighborhood. He stumbled his way along the sidewalk, dripping a trail of blood. He traveled blindly, and before he realized it, he'd found the entrance of a wealthy neighborhood, stark in contrast to the brick apartments and filthy stores he'd just passed. He was beginning to run out of strength, and it was a miracle he'd made it this far.


He started walking in as straight a line as he could manage down the street, although inevitably he swerved to the right, unable to see straight. He stumbled into the wall of a larger home, the impact creating a rather loud THUMP!


He managed to stumble his way onto the spacious porch, blood dripping behind him and undoubtedly leading the police right to his location. Not that it mattered much. He'd be dead soon, anyway.


He finally gave in, unable to stand any longer. He collapsed, another THUMP! likely alerting anyone inside of his presence. Blood immediately pooled below him on the concrete, and he closed his eyes, beginning to accept his fate. He wasn't even sure why he'd tried so hard to get away if he knew he was going to die. Maybe it was his pride. If he was going to die, he wanted to die free.


His mind began to slip away, and he felt the warmth leaving his body. It'd be over soon.


Soon, indeed.

Now, this is what my new writing looks like. This is taken from a post I wrote earlier today, actually, for comparison. And yes, it is from an Avatar: The Last Airbender roleplay. Don't judge me. >.< (It's a really good show, tho.)

"Fresh apples! Get your fresh apples here!"

"Don't mind if I do!"

Sheil muttered under his breath as he sneakily shifted an apple into his sleeve from his position nearby the stand, before shifting into the crowd seamlessly. Once he was a decent distance away, he slipped the apple out and took a big bite, making his way to the center of the marketplace. His triumphant grin turned into a scowl as he passed the droves of fire nation soldiers swarming the area. He sat down on the edge of a small, dried up fountain, his back facing a girl with blue clothes. He didn't even really see her, despite how much she must've stood out wearing a water tribe outfit. Maybe he was so focused on his rage he couldn't see anything outside his target. He was staring intensely at a fire nation soldier haggling with an older man over the prices of his wares. It was true, they were outrageously expensive for cabbages, but the man seemed desperate.

"These are the highest quality cabbages you'll find anywhere!" He insisted, "Take the price or leave them!"

The fire soldier retorted, "These are the only cabbages you'll find in this dump! Now I'm telling you, just lower the prices by 3 silvers and you'll have a deal!"

"I'll take not a silver less than what I've offered!" The cabbage merchant insisted, when suddenly a half-eaten apple hit the fire nation soldier on the back of his head. It bounced off his helmet harmlessly, but it certainly drew the soldier's attention.

"Who threw that?!" He shouted, to which Sheil stood up from his seat on the water fountain. He was short in stature, and maybe looked a bit younger than he was, but the burn scars peeking up from under his shirt collar and behind his sleeves were certainly a sign that the fire nation had hurt him. His hair was long and dark, and tied in a traditional Earth-kingdom top-knot.

"Before you start trying to bargain on prices, maybe you should consider how high you've set the sales tax, huh?" Sheil retorted, fury raging in his eyes. A crowd began to form around the scene.

"Listen, kid, I don't wanna hurt you, so why don't you--"

"I'm not afraid of you!" Sheil insisted, beginning to get in an earth-bending stance. The fire-nation soldier's eyes narrowed, expecting to get into a fight. This was it...All or nothing...

So, just to clarify, what will be happening in this thread? Essentially, I'll find writing prompts (feel free to suggest some to me, as well!) and practice writing something about them. When I'm finished, you guys can pitch in by comparing the new piece, and the last piece I had written, and telling me where I've improved and where I could use some work. I tend to be good at seeing where I've improved...but not so much where I could use work. Heh. So, for anyone who's willing to be helpful and contribute, the first thing you can do is compare my new writing and old writing above and tell me what you think are the major things I'm lacking now, or even before.

Also, I'd like to add that I totally don't expect anyone to do my work for me. If no one replies here, I'll still be practicing writing, even if I'm not posting it here. I'm just hoping that someone is kind enough to be an extra set of eyes for me. I'm still critiquing myself, even if I'm getting you guys to help me. Trust me, I'll always be critiquing myself...It's kinda just a writer thing, I think?

Or maybe that's the...

Oh, nevermind.
 

Draugvan

Isn't. That. Glitters. All. Gold.
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#2
Your old writing is more consistent with the emotion it is trying to convey. Each scene feels right for what it is. But your old writing has an over use of adjectives/adverbs before every little thing and spends too many words describing the ancillary rather than the meat. Even though your old writing is more consistent with the emotions, it is cold and I can't feel for the characters. I feel there is a lot of info missing from the second portion such as why is he there in the first place.

Your avatar writing is more contained, making it easier to digest. It has stronger emotion and I could get sense of who Sheil is supposed to be. However, it flicks between different emotions quickly and so has poor flow, seeming erratic and like Shell's actions aren't in-line with who I perceive him to be.

Your writing skill, on the face of it, is stronger in your avatar piece, but I get the impression you didn't put much effort into the nuances of Shiel's character.
 
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#3
You would be correct. The roleplay Shiel was a part of was meant to be something quick, as it was more of a break between another long-term roleplay I was doing with the same person. So, the characters were poorly developed as a result. Moreover, it was my first time working in someone else's universe, so it was a bit strange for me, as well. That said, I think your criticism is very useful, and I appreciate the thought put into it.

Here's something I'm currently working on as a solo-project. It's actually the backstory for a character named Raven who is kidnapped and tortured for 3 years, before being rescued. I'm doing a roleplay that takes place after his rescue, so I figured I would work on this as well as a side-project.

Raven's Abyss

I'm not sure how I feel about the beginning at all, it's kinda meh. It sounds too straightforward, but I'd like to see what you think about it. Also, title and cover are obviously placeholders. e.e Also, you might notice occassional updates to that link since it is a google doc. :P
 

Draugvan

Isn't. That. Glitters. All. Gold.
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Primarily aggressive
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Romance, Yaoi, YA, Horror
#4
You would be correct. The roleplay Shiel was a part of was meant to be something quick, as it was more of a break between another long-term roleplay I was doing with the same person. So, the characters were poorly developed as a result. Moreover, it was my first time working in someone else's universe, so it was a bit strange for me, as well. That said, I think your criticism is very useful, and I appreciate the thought put into it.

Here's something I'm currently working on as a solo-project. It's actually the backstory for a character named Raven who is kidnapped and tortured for 3 years, before being rescued. I'm doing a roleplay that takes place after his rescue, so I figured I would work on this as well as a side-project.

Raven's Abyss

I'm not sure how I feel about the beginning at all, it's kinda meh. It sounds too straightforward, but I'd like to see what you think about it. Also, title and cover are obviously placeholders. e.e Also, you might notice occassional updates to that link since it is a google doc. :P
Fancy stuff. With a picture and everything. Do you want me to post my thoughts here? I'll get to it in day or so.
 
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#5
That'd be nice, yes. :) Keep in mind that it's not finished, nowhere near it. :P But when you get around to it, some critique could be helpful as I continue working on it.

I do appreciate you being so helpful. :)
 

Draugvan

Isn't. That. Glitters. All. Gold.
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Romance, Yaoi, YA, Horror
#6
The start is informative, but well-known and not entirely gripping. Who is the audience for this story? - someone who is familiar with the main Raven story, or a new reader? If the former, then the first few sentences are fine.

The biggest issue to me is that the language is too sophisticated for a 14 y/o boy. As it is, its framed from his perspective as 14 y/o. You could fix this by changing the framing so its written in the past-tense from the perspective of Raven as an adult. That way the sophisticated language would make sense. I know its a lot of work to re-write the whole thing in past-tense, but it will really feel better for it.

I found the was an overuse of joining words such as on page 1 - 'I've lived there my whole life, after all', 'Yet, lately, I've been beginning to doubt that confidence', 'Its stupid, really; after all...'. These could all be removed and it would be tighter. An overuse of joining words also subtracts from the reliability of the narrator. As a reader, I need to trust the narration to be accurate. You should write in definites rather than maybes.

Overall, I liked how you chopped up the writing into paragraphs, but 99% of your dialogue should start on a new line.

Your use of '...' (dot dot dots) to inform flow is admirable, but you could do without it and start a new sentence instead. But I would say keep it if its a personal preference.

Chloroform smells like gasoline. Most organic solvents all smell like gasoline, though you could say it is also slightly floral. Most readers won't know anything about chloroform, so its not really an issue.

You may want to include page numbers, seeing as you are going for a polished look. Shit, maybe even a header with the title on there.

I read the first page in most detail, and started skimming on the way down. It gets real intense, real fast. You may want to lengthen the story at each mistreatment, so the story doesn't fly by so quickly.

Overall, you have a good grasp of language and grammar. I have high hopes for this ^.^​
 
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#7
Hmm, thank you very much for your insightful review, again!

I intended it for new readers, since the original story is actually a private roleplay, so only one other person has read it. That said, I do agree with the fact that the writing is too sophisticated; I'm only 18 myself, and I wrote similarly as a 14 year old, but I realize not everyone is like that. I just find it hard to figure out what age level has what sort of vocabulary since I never really experienced the typical vocabulary progression. I know that sounds kinda stuck-up but there is a story behind it, just not one I feel comfortable sharing at the moment.

I do think it's a good idea to write it as if he was an adult, and that'd make things quite a bit easier on me, as well. It also gives me an opportunity to re-write Raven's introduction in a more suitable manner for the audience. As for the joining words, that is a bad habit of mine. I'll work on fixing that.

You'll have to explain in more detail what you meant by dialogue being on a new line. My general rule is that if a different person is speaking, move it to the next paragraph. I'm pretty sure I followed that rule throughout the piece, but correct me if I'm wrong. I did intend for the part where all of his captors were introduced to be a bit confusing, since at the time Raven was blindfolded and he was just as confused as the audience would be. I'd likely clarify things later in the piece once his blindfold was removed.

I'll probably leave the ...'s, or at least most of them, especially in dialogue, since like you said they are intended to dictate how the dialogue is read.

I did a brief search on Chloroform and it seemed I had misread this: "Chloroform is a clear liquid with an ether-like odor and a slightly sweet taste." as "Chloroform is a clear liquid with a slightly sweet odor." Wonder how that happened, lol. Thanks for the info.

Page numbers and a header sound nice, although I wasn't actually going for a 'polished look' so much as a 'placeholder look'. The picture looks nice but is likely temporary, as is the title. I'm glad you think it looks polished, though. XD That said I will add them, because it does seem like a good idea.

Lastly, could you please explain what you mean by "lengthen the story at each mistreatment"? I was a bit worried it'd fly by too fast, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about preventing that.

Thank you again for such informative feedback! I am looking for new roleplay partners, by the way, and I'd love to roleplay with you if you have the time. :) Thanks.
 

Draugvan

Isn't. That. Glitters. All. Gold.
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#8
I'll take this to PMs.