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Feedback welcomed on a scene...

Hi all, I wonder if I can ask for honest feedback on the attached short extract from my fantasy novel - The Perfection Engine. Some of you have k already been kind enough to comment on the first chapter as well as a scene from later in the book. 

This chapter (partial chapter?) is a bit of a first draft work in progress. So as well as any comments on really egregious over-writing, showing not telling,  issues of psychic distance, repetitions and grammatical horrors, I'm really interested to see if the events portrayed make sense and are understandable. I'm actually trying to convey a very specific 'thing' that happens in the chapter which is quite difficult to describe. I think I've found a way to convey this 'thing' while keeping close to the main charcater's point of view... but I'm not sure if it works. Any thoughts as to whether the 'thing' that happens is clear (or not) would be most welcome.

Because this chapter is some way into the book, it references events that have already happened. So to hopefully help make sense of some of this and to give some of the context that readers of the book will have been given at this point, by now it will have been established that:

- Membra (the book's protagonist) is limbless, and has been for the last twelve years, as the result of injuries suffered in an unexplained attack on her home, the College of Thieves, and its subsequent destruction. 

- Steeltooth, the old librarian of the College, the man who raised her and she loved as a father, was violently killed in the same attack that injured her.

- In the following dozen years, following her recovery from the amputations that saved her life, Membra has adjusted to her new life as best she can. She is living as independently as possible, earning her living as an information miner and researcher, as well as (against all odds) operating as a thief when she can, years of training, dedication, acquired skills and ingenuity somewhat compensating for her disability. Outwardly, she has rebuilt her life. But inwardly,  haunted by regret and guilt, she is incomplete and broken, searching for a wholeness that can never be hers again. 

- A few weeks ago, during an unexpected and strangely well-paid thieving commission to purloin items from a well-guarded Remembrancer's Tower, Membra found a strange device, an ornate metal orb. To her astonishment, she remembers seeing it once in Steeltooth's quarters as a child, but when she had asked him what it was he only remarked cryptically that she would one day understand its promise and its danger. She never saw it again... until her semming chance discovery... or was it chance?

- In her research so far, she has found ancient historical and mythological sources that have given it a name - the Noumenon - and mention it as an object of great power and peril. But there is nothing, so far, that gives any indication of what it actually is... or what it does ... other than tantalising hints at it as the 'harbinger of perfection'. This strikes a chord  with Membra, who believes herself to be imperfect, and makes it all the more important that she finds out the Noumenon's secrets.

- On the night of the break-in when she discovered the Noumenon, she was surprised by a stranger who also seemed to be searching the Tower. He has since tracked her down and identified himself as Custos. An ex-mercenary haunted by his own violent past, Custos has been following his own cryptic trail to an artefact he has been told can grant forgetfulness and redemption to those racked with guilt... and it would seem that journey has brought him to the Noumeno as well.

- There are signs that other malevolent forces are also stirring as the result of Membra's find; indeed, Membra and Custos were attacked the night they first met, escaping only by the sking of their teeth. Bonding as the result of the shared danger, they have become at first reluctant allies, each suspicious of the other, and then - increasingly - partners and comrades. The trust has grown strong enough between them that Custos has recently moved into Membra's lodgings so he is on hand as her research continues...

Now read on! 😀  The doc should hopefully be attached.

Oh, and in the spirit of the recent posts about pictorial representations of our creations... here's an illustration to maybe whet the appetite! 😄 


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Replies (46)
  • Hi Jon,

    There’s a lot of  good atmosphere here. The story comes through but it needs tightening. In the first paragraph…..‘relaxed her muscles’ ‘relaxed and sleepy’….too many ‘hers’….her muscles, her books, her wine, next to her, her pleasure, her independence, her control. I would suggest trying to find other ways to convey these images. 

    The warmth of a fire had relaxed her muscles after the day’s exertions, and she was relaxed and sleepy in the golden glow of the lamplight, with her familiar books all around her, and a goblet of her favourite Mhersian wine next to her within easy reach. Custos, whose gentle snores she could hear from the sleeping alcove, would be waking soon.

    My take would be simpler...

    The fire’s warmth relaxed her muscles after the day’s exertions. Sleepy in the golden glow of lamplight, familiar books all around, a glass of favorite Mhersian wine within reach, she could hear Costos’ snores from the sleeping alcove. He would  be waking soon.

    You get the idea. There are more ‘hers’ on through so try to spot and eliminate where it makes sense.  I think the reader would automatically assume all these items to be hers.

    Also watch your ‘telling’…. Perhaps, trained as artists (I’m assuming your are, I have a BFA) we are used to seeing images rather than experiencing them. We want to describe a scene when we paint it or put together a collage. Get all the details in as we visualize them. I’m learning to make my writing more succinct but I struggle.

    Anyway, I like the gist of what you wrote. the story moves, the idea is good, the setting compels. The tease of her getting her limbs back is intriguing. A good read; better if tightened, however, in my humble opinion.

    Love the illustration by the way! Wonderful!


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    • Hi Connie. Thank you so much for the feedback and the excellent points. It's funny; even though this is a pretty rough first draft, I had done my usual 'look for signs of telling' exercise, and I thought I'd caught a lot of them at least! But you've found lots I'd missed... particularly the overuse of 'she' and 'her', so thank you. 

      Thanks, too, for the rewrite suggestion, which is, indeed, far better.

      I usually find that when I'm editing I lose about a third of what I originally wrote (at least in superfluous words) but a few more sentences go in to clarify or augment the sense I want to convey. So hopefully some of the over-describing you rightly mention will be addressed then.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and feed back! It's much appreciated.

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    • Just curious, what medium do you paint in? Your work reminds me somewhat of early Donald Roller Wilson. His paintings definitely tell a story, like yours. Wonderful light and shadow in the image you posted.


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      • What was your process of learning to draw like that in the first place? The detail is exquisite.

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        • Thank you, Lynn! 'Falstaff' was actually an early concept for Custos. I'm glad I gave him more hair in the end! 😄 

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          • Thanks Rick. That's very kind. I've always loved detail and 'clutter' in paintings, and from as long ago as I can remember I always visualised that sort of detail. Some of my earliest memories of art that I responded to were the illustrations in books I read by people such as Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Edmund Dulac and W. Heath Robinson... all of whom drew and painted lots of minutiae in their work. I suppose I must have copied what I was drawn to!

            I also loved painting still life when I was at school, and I suppose that helped - observing 'things' and trying to draw their shapes and relationships and the way the light fell on them as accurately as I could.

            In a picture such as the one of Membra at her desk, the clutter tends to grow over the course of the painting. What started with the essentials -  just a few papers, the lamp that had to be there to illuminate her face, and the Noumenon of course - was added to. Books, the goblet and bottle for her evening toddy, and then the magnifying glass and the coins, an ink well, her assitive tools... they're all added as they occur to me, each one slowly adding to the scene.

            Her lovely circular library bookstand (in the shadows behind her) was added when I saw one in a photograph. I really liked it, so in it went!

            In terms of learning, I'm actually un-taught, at least post secondary school. But I've always drawn and painted, so any 'techniques' (actually probably more accurate to call then 'cheats' or shortcuts!) I use have developed organically through trial and error. Having said that, I do love reading art books and artist's writing about how the techniques they use... so some of that must have gone in along the way and been incorporated!

            Thanks again for the kind words! 🙂 

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          • Hi Jon

            Thank you for sharing another chapter in your novel. I enjoy your writing and look forward to reading about Membra and getting to know her better. 

            Here's my take on the scene. Membra is happy, maybe happier than she's been in a long time. She's falling for Custos and that makes her feel vulnerable so she's not about to admit it to herself any time soon. Then the orb activates. It shows us that it could make her whole again but will wipe out all that has happened to her. With different experiences, she becomes a slightly different person. She will have no memory of who she was and she will lose Custos. Is this the "thing" ? If so, I have one suggestion. While you show very clearly how Membra feels about herself before the orb activates, after we don't get much a sense of how happy she is in this other life. You say she's alone, but I know many people that are happily single by choice. I think you need to give us an idea about what kind of person she would be with limbs and without the trauma in her life. 

            If I'm totally off base and this isn't what you were going for, sorry! Ignore my ramblings!

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            • Thanks, Julie! You've nailed exactly what I was hoping would come across! That's exactly what I intended. The Noumenon and the (still undiscovered) Perfection Engine of which it's a vital part are somehow linked by 'spooky action at a distance' to use a phrase from the world of quantum physics. Someone, somewhere is tinkering with the Engine itself - we find out who later - and this causes the Noumenon to activate very briefly. It creates the same effect at a small, local level as the main Engine does at a global level - re-setting reality to a 'perfect' world in which trauma, pain and injury are removed. But, as you realised, the removal of these things creates a new reality in which the effects of them on the individual vanish too, and that person is changed too... with no real lasting memory of who they were 'before' (actually there is no 'before' really, as the scope of the effect is retrospective). That's the crux of the existential decision Membra eventually has to make - whether to sacrifice the person she is now, in part as the result of the traumas she suffered in her life, in order to become someone completely new, 'whole' but different and utterly unknown... and also risk losing elements of her 'flawed and imperfect' present that she has come to value, including Custos.

              I struggled for a while as to how to write this change. What I decided in the end was to write so the narration would simply shift from one reality to another almost seamlessly. Only the reader would 'see' the change and then the reversion. I tried to add subtle reminders of the 'present' before the change. Hence 'eye' (singular) becomes 'eyes' (plural), Custos is mentioned and then Membra is 'living alone', Membra's memory of Steeltooth's death is completely different... 

              I think you've put your finger on something that was niggling me, too, on re-reading this draft. I think the physical effects are fine; what's missing, as you say, is a mnore detailed sense of what changes have occurred to Membra's sense of self and her psychological state. I'll try and address that in the eventual re-write.

              Thank you so much! That's really helpful!

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            • Jon if you want to show true understanding of a woman rather than using ‘pleasure point’ you could use clitoris? (Most men don’t know where it is)! 😂😂😂😂

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              • I agree Lynn. Clitoris is what is called, as writers we shouldn’t be scared of using the correct terms! Apologies if a bit non PC, original comment obviously meant in fun!

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                • I do agree, Debbie. However, this is why I don't quite sexual scenes - choosing appropriate language is a minefield

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                  • Hahaha! For anybody reading these responses and wondering where the hell this discussion of Membra's clitoris has come from (!) I should perhaps point out that it seems to be referencing an earlier extract I posted for feedback where she and Custos are making love! 😄 

                    Debbie, the reason I didn't use that word was because (to me... and this may be a purely male respons, of course) it felt slightly 'anatomical' or medical in this context. I decided not to use the word 'penis' for the same reason!

                    In fact, I've removed the reference entirely in the latest version of that scene, in favour of something perhaps a little more subtle and indirect!

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                  • Hey Jon, how are you? First of all, I READ THE WHOLE THING!! Your story is good, I did enjoy it!! I understand why you brought it here for feedback, this is a BIG SCENE and if it were me I would want it perfect. I also love the fact there are going to be bigger scenes, this is just the beginning.

                    First things first, I loved the chapter ending. I was like, “Aww dang, it was all a drea— oh, oh the thing glowed!” 😂

                    Unfortunately nothing is perfect, and I actually typed this once a few hours ago but I got logged out before I could hit send, so i'm writing this a second time. Jon if this doesn't show I love you then I don't know what does 😂I'm going to be extra picky, for your sake 😂 but otherwise you've got something good. 

                    I agree with Connie, there are some telling issues that need to be fixed. I personally feel the first paragraph needs to be shortened. But that could just be me— the adults might say it's okay. But sentences like 

                    Her independence was too hard won and too uncertain to be so easily imperilled.

                    I feel that sentence is an unnecessary form of telling, especially when the previous sentence shows that she's uncomfortable with the whole Custos thing. 


                    When everything starts, you wrote:

                    As if aware of her attention and almost in answer to her unspoken question, the orb trembled and shifted. Her eye widened. (Think it should be *eyes)

                    "What in the name of the gods..?" 

                    I feel like you could do more than “her eye widened.” If it were me, I would've jumped. I know Membra is limbless, so you could try something like.

                    “A shock wave ran through her, numbing Membra to her chair.” Then that's when you do the what in the name...

                    Why I'm saying this? Your eyes widen when the kettle starts whistling, but this is a pivotal scene in your book— we need more than “eye widen” to convey how she feels. And no, not through dialogue. I don't know to explain it, but it needs to be before “what in the name of the gods...” because action then reaction. So when you tell me she shook before she spoke, it's logical compared to her speaking then shaking. And since this is a big scene, we do not need too much detail, we just need a little more than “eye widen” to separate it from other scenes or moments in your story. Even if this isn't the real thing, it feels real to the reader. Hope that makes sense.


                    Membra flinched and jerked herself backwards as arcs of radiant blue energy erupted from the orb and crawled across the table in front of her, crackling and striking sparks wherever they touched metal.

                    Now, I didn't understand this part until I saw your painting, and I didn't understand it because of three words that tripped me up. 

                    Radiant. Erupted. And crawled.

                    You see when it said radiant energy, I was thinking of some explosion, then erupted confirmed that theory but then “crawled on the table” and I was quite confused. i couldn't picture it. However, seeing image, I'm likening it to Thor and his lightning. So you could say something like this

                    “Sparks flew everywhere. Blue arcs of energy erupted out of the orb and whizzed across the table.”

                    Reason why I mentioned sparks, because that suggests it's not a dragon ball Z energy blast. 😂

                    She jerked backwards, also threw me off a bit, mainly because I'd assumed a big blast, so I was imagining duck and cover. To help avoid confusion you could say

                    “She jerked backwards into her chair.” It gives a clearer picture.

                    Next, you kind of go off-topic when 

                    “Puzzled, she reached up and the fingers of her left hand met soft skin, the coarse fuzz of an eyebrow and the complex geometry of bone and flesh around her eye.”

                    We have about two paragraphs of this before we go back to the blue light thing. Which just destroys the atmosphere. You can summarise all into a sentence or two, or even 

                    “Membra pinched herself but she wasn't convinced it was real." I'd take one sentence of telling over 10 sentences of unnecessary showing, any day. 

                    Now my last point is, 

                    Dream or no dream, how did Membra forget about Custos during that entire thing?

                    Overall the book is good. I'm curious as to what kind of adventure the Noumenon is going to lead Membra into.  The book's got potential, just needs some tightening.

                    General advice: Focus on what you want the moment to be. What you want the reader to feel from it. 🙏

                    Don't let this bring you down Jon, the story is good!

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                    • Thanks, Robert. That's a good point, though I think the direct thought idea would need the point re-jigging to be more in Membra's own voice perhaps.

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                      • Her lost eye is actually part of her back-story, and not suffered at the same time as her other injuries (poor Membra, I have put her through some stuff! 😯 ).

                        Here she is, telling Custos a bit of her life story:

                        'I was a solitary child, teased for my silence and my seriousness. I was tall for my age, though, and, despite my skinniness, well able to look after myself. I have forgot the reason for the particular fight but I still have the slicer I used to kill my antagonist. It's around her somewhere; a beautifully balanced stiletto. And its blade - though worn paper-thin now by sharpening - is still as clean and bright as on the day I stole it. I can't remember the name of the deader even. As if it matters. He was a big man, I remember that. And he stank. His only importance is that he was the first; I took his life and he took my eye. I've always thought that a fair accounting. I was nine.'

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                        • It's my pleasure Jon! I see about the eye thing, and everything else. It's a good story, I'd love to read— just keep at it!!

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                        • Jon not sure if you saw my comment. Good descriptions, but to make it truly from a woman's point of view you could substitute 'pleasure point' for Clitoris.  

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                          • I have indeed seen your comment, Debbie, and have much enjoyed to conversation it sparked! 😂 

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                          • Hi Jon

                            First of all, I love the illustrations.

                            I haven't read the other exerts so this is fresh to me.

                            I wanted to give this more of an in depth critique in a document, but unfortunately I don't have that luxury atm, but am keen to read it and comment while it's fresh. That being said, with this being a first draft, you're more than capable of tightening and rectifying.

                            One thing I will say is that there is an abundance of passive voice. For example, 'was' appears a lot. Some sentences can be restructured to active voice, others can just lose the 'was' and they would still work. For instance:

                            the table was heavy oak, and her slight weight was  nowhere enough to affect it. Could even amend first half of the sentence.

                            You portray her independance well, and her need not to rely on Custos, even though she does have feelings for him.

                            I'm assuming, after just reading others comments that the thing is her wanting to pleasure herself. I had noticed this, so you did it well without giving too much away. Sometimes less is more. It can be very difficult to relay this information at times. My prologue is a rape scene. An early write had it describing in great detail, but it was grotesque. It developed to not mentioning anything that was happening at all and reads much better.

                            Well done Jon. This looks a very intriguing book. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

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                            • Hi Charlie, and thanks so much for the feedbcak. Good call on the use of the passive voice; it is a fault of mine, I know! I shall do a pass through the piece and identify more instances where that can be changed.

                              Ha! The 'thing' I mean't was slightly different!  😄  Although, yes, by this stage in their relationship they are indeed sharing a bed... so I think what she's anticipating is a shared activity! 

                              The 'thing' I wanted to know worked or not was actually the seamless swap between her present reality and the new reality created by the Noumenon's field, and whether it was clear what was happening. I was worried that her not having limbs and then having them, Steeltooth having been murdered and then dying peacefully, Custos being there and then not... might just be very confusing rather than giving a massive clue as to what the Noumenon is and what might potentially happen in the future. It's a pivotal moment in my 'mystery plot' and I wasn't sure if it worked as intended!

                              Thank you for the kind words!

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                            • Jon I want to buy your book! The “thing” I saw was how the noumenon could switch Membra to a kind of sliding doors alternative reality but she broke the spell when she reached out to touch it. I like the reaching up to her face part that reveals how she has changed. You suddenly think hang on a minute she hasn’t got hands and eyes (plural) so you realise the magic that has happened. I think your writing is great. There were a few repetitions and things but this is a first draft and you’ll tighten them in your editing. I think as a draft to test the concept and see if you’re getting the picture across then this is a definite success. 

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                              • Oh Kate, thank you so much for that reassurance! That's exactly it! And that reaching up moment is exactly the point that I hoped would provide that clue and not just be hugely confusing! If that works, hopefully (if I'm up to it as a writer) the more intricate and subtle shifts in her feelings and attitudes, about herself and others, will all drop into place too, so that her eventual decision, on which the book's theme turns, will make sense!

                                Thank you!

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                              • I really enjoyed this, Jon.

                                As others have said, your atmosphere is really good, the sense of place very strong. There are moments of telling not showing, some repetition of words but as this is a first draft, your can clean all that up in the edit. There are places where your word choice weakens the impact of the scene (seemingly/almost, that kind of thing) so you could edit out some of that, make the image stronger (I notice this because I know I have a tendency to do it too!). And at times your psychic distance could be shrunk in places too, out us more in the moment.

                                But overall, what a great scene. The device is fascinating - it feels like it's watching, as if it had consciousness, which is a worry - and I really liked the description of the lightning, holding it up as if on legs. Membra is just a fascinating MC too and that idea of a perfection machine, the possibility that it might return her full mobility had such potential for heartbreak. Such interesting themes - what it means to be a complete person etc.

                                Really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more.

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                                • Thank you so much, Lynn, and I agree with your criticism, especially around the psychic distance issue. But I'm really pleased that you're interested in the wider themes and Membra herself! Thanks for the feedback!

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                                • Hi Jon – have to say I have no idea what this ‘thing’ is! This seems to be a scene where Membra is writing, the Noumenon activates and gives her the strange experience of how her life could have been, and when it shuts down she doesn’t remember it happening. So she heads off to bed in hope of some romance with Costa. Interested to know what I’m missing.

                                  I think you’ve got a complex and interesting world and character, and you write well, but I wasn’t caught up and drawn into this scene. I found you kept me at arm’s length from the character and there was a lack of any peril.

                                  For me, the narrator’s too much in charge. And when a reader can feel the narrator, it stops them being immersed in the story.

                                  You use she/her a lot, and in doing that you’re keeping me on the outside looking in at the character. Similarly the use of the filtering words felt/watched /stared/hear have the effect of keeping me at a distance.

                                  The narrator tells us what the Noumenon is doing (with some fab descriptions), but that makes my view of it external. I want to be experiencing what Membra is seeing and feeling,  and in experiencing that get a sense of tension and peril and be pulled into the scene. Get us more inside Membra’s head and show rather than tell. Does that make sense?

                                  Harry wrote an interesting blog which he says is about the present tense, but by the end is more about the construction of sentences. He uses ‘I’, but it can be just as easily be applied to ‘she’. You can see from this how the way he changes the sentence construction moves us closer to the character and strengthens the voice. Might be worth a read.


                                  Hope some of the above is helpful, but as ever just my opinion, so use what works for you and discard the rest.

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                                  • Hi Kate. Thanks for the feedback, and I absolutely take your point about the distancing. I thought I'd at least made a start on achieving a closer connection with Membra, here and elsewhere, but I obviously have a lot further to go!

                                    The 'thing' I wanted reassurance about was the mostly unexplained switch of realities, and whether it was too confusing that there are essentially two Membras in the scene, with very differenrt physicalities, histories and memories. It's not so much that the Noumenon 'gives her the experience' of being the other Membra, but that she acually is the 'other' Membra, for at least as long as the Noumenon is active. It's not a vision, or a false memory. It's not how her life could have been, but how it actually is... for those few seconds.

                                    In terms of the positioning of this scene in the wider plot, this is the first major clue (and foreshadowing) of the existence of the Perfection Engine itself, which does on a global (universal) scale what the Noumenon does here within a sphere of influence of a few feet. Why it activates at this point is also important and explained slightly later.

                                    The 'peril' at this point is from what Membra (and the reader) don't know. From the various forces that have been set in motion and are slowly turning their attention towards her.

                                    I do take your point, though, especially about the lackof investment you felt in Membra, and will have a good think about what I could do to improve that in the next edit.

                                    Thank you again for the really useful feedback! It's much appreciated. 

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                                    • Glad it was helpful Jon. From what you've said above, the 'thing' wasn't an issue for me. I understood what was going on. The fact the chair had moved suggested this wasn't a vision but a temporary reality. 

                                      Ref the peril, if the reader doesn't know about the various forces, they're not going to feel the peril either. I think Rick has explained more clearly what I meant - 'That's a sign of interest or inquisitiveness, not of the what-the-hell shock I would expect her to be feeling.' It was this missing element showing how Membra felt/reacted that gave the lack of peril.

                                      Sounds like a fabulous storyline and for a first draft this is a great chapter.

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                                    • OK, now that I've read the excerpt… my impression was mostly aligned with Kate's. There was a lot of telling, a lot of interesting descriptions but from a narrator's perspective. For example, when the Noumenon activates, you've got three of four paragraphs of description… and not a mention withing them of Membra's shock. All she does is raise an eyebrow. That's a sign of interest or inquisitiveness, not of the what-the-hell shock I would expect her to be feeling.

                                      It doesn't help that you throw in that last line totally distancing the reader from Membra, basically looking over her shoulder at what she isn't seeing. Because, if it brightens, wouldn't she see it's light shining on what's before her?

                                      Additionally, there is an aspect of your description that is repetitive. You'll say the same thing multiple ways, as though you haven't found a succinct description. This often results in key word repetition. Or, sometimes, the use of words that doesn't feel like it fits the setting (e.g. ozone - is chemistry advanced enough in the setting for it to be known, or should you be describing it through the situation when it's present?)

                                      That said, you have some very good turns of phrase hidden with the piece. But there is still a lot of polishing needed to get it to the standard I know you're capable of.

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                                      • Thanks Rick. Can't argue with any of that! I do struggle with the practical application of close psychic distance a lot, despite understanding the issue and knowing in theory how to accomplish it. I know it's one of my many weaknesses. I'll pick this scene apart on the next edit to try and improve that. 

                                        That last line worried me too, so I'm glad you picked up on it. I had it in my head to start and finish the chapter in 'cinematic' POV, focusing in for the bulk of the passage and then zooming out at the end. But it obviously hasn't worked as I'd hoped... which I think I knew. So thank you for the confirmation!

                                        Yes. Repetition. Another weakness, A failure, shortcoming. A falling short. I shall do better! 😉 

                                        Mmmm. I'm not sure about the 'ozone' reference. It's tricky, since it may be justified by the worldbuilding... which obviously it's hard to see from a global perspective in these extracts. There are aspects of Membra's world that make it seem like a medieval-era place. But, in some respects it's more advanced than that - in terms of (some) science they're more at a Victorian level of understanding. So They will understand the basics of the elemental table, for example, though perhaps not why the relationships exist. They would know that 'ozone' existed and under what natural circumstances it would be generated - even if she hasn't been to the ocean Membra would have experienced thunderstorms or lightning strikes, maybe even early articially-generated electrical forces, and would know the distinctive smell.

                                        Whether she'd call it 'ozone' in her reality of course is another matter. But calling it something else - or describing it without naming it - seems more clumsy to me than just using our, familiar term. It's the same issue that often arises with 'alien' or 'fantasy' distances or other measurements. Do you use miles or kilometers (and risk the criticism that such units aren't alien) or do you invent new units of measurements and then have to spend time (and reader patience) explaining just how long a 'guitterile' is or how long a 'xotlehhy' lasts? 😁 

                                        Thank you for the feedback. As always it's much appreciated!

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                                        • With ozone, you could describe it as the smell of close lightning. That's only two words, and the only way it would have been describe until early in the Victorian era. And then, only those in the scientific community would have known it. But, as you say, world-building… If you've given a hint earlier to suggest Membra's familiarity with the advanced sciences of her world, then it would be fine. Otherwise… even in our world, how many people actually know that smell? And, as long as she has the experience, call it ozone.

                                          The trick with alien/fantasy is to use terms that are suited to the setting. If they are scientific, if they have standard units, and count in base 10, you can use metric. Otherwise, it's better to use imperial, or the older styling of league… especially given that the definition is contextual. You want a challenge, try writing a piece where the local number system is base seven, and deal with the equivalent of saying someone is their "thirties"… (Yes, in my WIP's setting, the main culture counts using base seven. The secondary culture uses base-12, and the character written in that POV can't understand why they don't use something sensible and divisible.)

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                                        • Jon, I totally agree with Kate and Rick so won't repeat loads...

                                          Just to say this probably isn't my normal reading genre but I was kind of transfixed, though I felt I had to puzzle my way through some parts. So with a certain amount of tightening and honing in a bit more on what this 'thing' is I think it could be a very exciting bit in the book.

                                          Have you tried writing it in first person? Even if you think that's not the way you want to go you could use it as an exercise, it could get you closer to Membra. Then in the rewrite plough some of the 'discoveries' it throws up to make that distance created through the narrator somewhat shorter. Just an idea.

                                          I also think the moment loses something because it's quite lengthy. It drifts too much in the middle; I get a good feel of the Noumenon, then some description throws me off again and I'm a bit confused, then something anchors me back. Your written pictures are sometimes not as clear to me as your drawings. Some examples: 

                                          and the air filled with the sharp smell of ozone > I had to google that because it floored me, turns out it's like chlorine...perhaps that's a more accessible smell?

                                          arcs of radiant blue energy erupted from the orb and crawled across the table in front of her, crackling and striking sparks wherever they touched metal. > I was doing well until 'crawled', it didn't fit the vision of it jumping and dodging that I had in my head

                                          its spherical form shifting into more intricate geometries > couldn't picture this at all

                                          the cryptic centre of a shifting field of warped space and impossible angles > again, I can't picture this - perhaps I haven't read enough sci-fi ;-)

                                          the smell of thunder, sharp and disconcerting > cryptic smells again :-0

                                          You have to remember that the reader is trying to picture all this AND Membra's new body AND trying to understand what is actually happening. 

                                          I'd try to distil it all down and make it quite exhilarating for the reader.

                                          Great first draft though ;-)

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                                          • To be clear, I LIKE the line too, I just can't process it - meaning, I can't smell that smell because I have no idea what it could be. Just an additional few words might lead me to it a bit?

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                                            • The smell of thunder is a mix between the smell of lightning, and the earthiness of fresh rain.

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                                              • Hmm, and there was me thinking it was more formulaic and I'd missed a science lesson 😉 

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