Critique of Chapter XXI
By: Dhalgren99

Oh oh oh...finally! New blood! Let this be the Pouches welcome to Dru Driver then, who makes her writing debut with this chapter (even though it's been done for a while, I'm just slow), the first of many I imagine. I did mean to do this last night but I got involved in a spirited debate with a person apparently possessed of much patience to deal with me (for some reason they're still speaking to me, go figure) and that ate up my time because, frankly, I don't know when to shut up. Oh well. Everyone shall deal. It's about a hundred here, oh wait, weather service says ninety eight, boy that's a relief, I don't think I could have handled a hundred...with no signs of it breaking over the next few days. Whee.

So here I am, in my house with the central air cranked up as high as it will go ready to finally (finally!) perform my dubious magic on the chapter. Deay appears to be a character with much breakout potential, crossover success can be easily had...she can team with noted rapper for "Dre Deay", perhaps have a chapter where she fights a series of plant monsters in "Deay of the Triffids" and I'm sure her memoirs "I Never Thought This Deay Would Come" will be a best seller. Ha ha ha, I'm such the...oh, put down that knife Dru, I wasn't mocking your character I was, it's like initation. That's right, you know, part of the group welcome. Nobody told you? Ah, well that's because it's like, a, ah, secret. Yup. Secret. But now you know and ah, I'll just take that and put it over here, okay?

Whew, that was close. Writers can be so sensitive. Anywho, this is a nice introduction to Deay and manages in two short sections to get her to the Inn, where I imagine she'll mingle with the cast and perform wondrous deeds as only scantily clad fantasy characters can. You do a good job getting the setting all er, set up, in the opening paragraphs...though you may have wanted to perhaps throw out a more striking image...your penchant for detail is on par with everyone else (God, I'm like Hemingway compared to you people), though you may want to break up the two opening paragraphs a bit, since all the detail can get lost in large blocks like that.

I'm not sure what Deay is reading from nature...but I'll take her word for it when she says that it means she's going to be taking a journey. She seems very much in tune with the swamps that she's been living in...I do like how you give us some background on her...Deay seems quite the "girl power!" sort of gal, her confidence is interesting and I'd like to see how it holds up in actual conflict. It's easy to say, "Oh I can change the balance of the world" but when Karnak turns your eyeballs into argon gas, you might not feel so good about life then. She appears to be a reincarnation of sorts, making a comment about living for millennia and being only twenty five at the her later comment about her "mother's mother's mother" does that apply to her "birth" mother who I imagine doesn't come from the same quasi-immortal stock or perhaps the pantheon or whatnot that Deay hails from. She comes across as fairly naive in her cheerfulness, like she's going on a great adventure that's no worse than a walk down the street to the corner store when chances are life is going to get a bit hectic when various beasts try to kill her.

My only complaint is that she almost suffers from what I've come to call "Odan Syndrome" where the character is so confidant and where everything comes so easily to them that you start to want to cheer for Karnak to take her down a peg. Though again, living by yourself probably does that to you, once she gets out in the "real world" so to speak, knowing the lay of the land (great song but probably not for Deay) and having the "unsurpassed" (who do you compare yourself to...Slimey the Snake down the road?) ability to read bones may not be so great a help when the dragons are coming and what the characters are really wishing for is a big gun.

"Tipping the balance of nature"...that's been stressed twice so I imagine you want us to know about that. Is that an actual ability or is her mother just speaking metaphorically. Deay seems very much in touch with nature...which makes me wonder why she'd want to screw with it. Tipping the balance implies say, letting deer run wild and eat all the plants, letting all the grass die so when the river floods it takes all the soil back with it, fires burning out of control. Since Deay doesn't seem to be a megalomaniac I'm curious to see how she applies that little ability...though it would be funny to have her face Karnak and simply open up a hole in the ground and then seal him in there (even funner when he turns the hole he's stuffed in into fresh mountain air and floats out...whoops, try again).

Deay's and her mother's comments about her origins almost contradict...her mother says that Deay is her "best creation" but Deay says she is a milennia old being who has been basically reincarnated as a young girl. I don't know if you can have it both ways but's quite possible her mother was mistaken. Or perhaps Deay is. Or perhaps Dru has an explanation coming up that will make me look silly.

If Deay's never had a father and never met other girls who have fathers (I doubt there's many neighbors in a swamp) how she can she resent having a father, never knowing what having one was really like (since he's just some guy in stories)...also, since she's apparently thousands of years old, why care? Her actual childhood was long ago, though it's unclear how long she's been aware of her age old status.

Is "evilness" a word? My spellchecker was a bit confused over that one and it does strike me as a tad awkward...there are lot of other words you can could use in its place, "corruption" "wickedness", plus more if you want to restructure a few sentences. So Karnak is apparently nearby. Karl might want to know that one, especially since he's doing nothing so far about Karnak (that we can see...don't turn your back, farmboy)...her mother or Deay seems to know Karnak and maybe ran into him at some point, I can imagine Deay must have an appropriately creepy anecdote to describe our boy Karnak (word of advice, don't let him buy you a drink), perhaps when our boy in black was passing through. Granted she seems so confident and cheerful that she might go and introduce herself right before he kidnaps her to use in hideous experiments, but hey, all part of the game.

Her anecdote concerning her mother is a bit confusing...let me get this straight, a young man wanders into the swamp, Deay falls in love (or whatever) with him, but he gets corrupted (does Karnak's presence do that and if so, why is Deay still all right?) and so her mother seduces (?) him. That's a unique solution. Then what, did she kill him? Evict him? What the heck happened to her mother anyway?

And ten years later she still hates all men. That, folks, is what we call holding a grudge. Oy. See if I hold the door open for her. Perhaps Karl will win her over as well and Hellbore and her can fight it out pointlessly (hey girls, remember the dragons?)...gee except for Karl men ain't making out too well here and Hellbore will get him whipped soon enough, Craven's being hunted, Darvon got stuck in a horse, Lord only knows what happened to Odan (he got his head removed, do you know much that sucks?)...yeah, the Realms aren't a good place to be a guy, it seems.

But the bits of history with Deay are good and serve to begin to give us a good head for the character, without any interactions or whatnot it's hard to get a firm handle, her unflagging cheerfulness and overconfidence may get irritating if we get nothing but that for the rest of the story (plus coupled with the man hating thing, plus she's a bit flighty...she renews her vow of swearing off men and then thinks about two dolls she made...stay focused, swamp woman, focused!) but the good thing about a multipart epic novel is that you get the opportunity to explore every single facet of the character. I am very curious to see how she interacts with everyone else.

That said, her journey to the Inn is done quickly...good, no need to drag it out, though the "Odan Syndrome" starts to rear again...what can't this girl do? She walks at an impossibly steady how can the trail be "obvious" if she's never left the swamp...maybe it goes somewhere else...apparently doesn't need to eat that often...and she spends most of her journey congratulating herself on those nutty aspects. I'll tell you this, whatever this girl has, I want some of it.

Also and this is something I've brought up with other authors...are the Realms are separate world/dimension? Because in Hensbane's chapter a long while back she mentioned Cupid and now Deay comments that Venus and Mars are both "all right" (even though she can only see Mars...but we won't go into that) I think Dru was either playing on words or hinting at something else, since the similarities to a certain real world self help book are too close...but I think the writers should settle whether this is Earth or not. If it is Earth, then Mars and Cupid are fine, if a bit weird to mention...but if it's clearly not (and Odan's comments in the beginning seem to indicate this is another world) I would go easy on the real world stuff, there shouldn't be a Mars or a Venus here, in my opinion. If I want the real world stuff I'll go read Danielle Steel, if it's a fantasy world then make up new planets and moons and gods and stuff, try not to fall back on the old mythologies. Y'all are writers, create new ones.

Just my opinion but it's little things like that, which can jar a reader out of the world you're trying to immerse him in.

Dru, a fine job here, you're more than capable of entering the ranks of the writers involved in the Realms and this is a good start. My only suggestion is to make Deay less "perfect", rubbing up against the real world out there may bruise her confidence a little, since it's not the swamp and a lot of strange stuff is about to happen. Mordock alone should be a mental test (if she goes) since I doubt she's ever seen such mass slaughter as we're about to see I think. Other than that you're in good shape and I look forward to seeing Deay interact with the rest of the nuts who populate the Realms (and the people do call it the "Phantom Realms"...why? the phantoms only seem to be around the Valley area) as well as finding out more about her. Also, good not taking the easy way out (aHEM!) and including some background info on her, insteading of just relegating it all into the bio, which I read when you initially sent it but don't remember anymore. Those are bonus points in my book.

There, now that wasn't so bad, was it? Next up is the massive collaboration, which should be a kick in of itself.

Sorry for such the long delay, everyone, I'll try to pick up the pace from here! I promise!

Take care all!

- Michael

"Where children circle in cycles, giving jokes ad lib by bearded writers who defected to higher realms, advertising realms..."
- The Fall, "Lay of the Land"

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