Critique of Chapter VI(B)
By: Dhalgren99


And a fine evenin' to y'all out there. While you're probably enjoyed a Pouchesless mailbox for the last few weeks...you knew it wasn't to last forever. Not if you folks kept writing. Actually because it's been so quiet I've decided that we're going to have retro-week, and to celebrate that we'll rerun the "Best of Pouches" showcasing my finest moments and greatest truimphs. It should be an entertaining five minutes or so. No, really DanO is the cause of this blast from the past...out of nowhere he found the missing chapter that nobody realized was missing. Not too long ago I pointed out that there seemed to be a bit of a gap between the two sections of his chapter...a gap that made the chapter make little sense and wasn't explained. DanO finally realized that there was a good reason for that...he had forgotten (or Nova had misplaced or the Internet lost or I stole...the theories run rampant) the middle section. And believe me it makes a difference. Why nobody noticed the first time is beyond me but everyone probably read the SIP which somehow didn't make it to the web site and well...it doesn't matter because that bad mutha is back. Word.

It's an Odanrific chapter, which is necessary in my opinion since Odan is fairly hard to get a handle on, because of the duality of his nature and the fact that he's so effortless in all he does. In conversations with DanO I see that the man has a damn good grasp of what makes Odan tick but still has to convey that to the reader. At this point he's best playing off Craven, which he does well here. By himself, I'm not sure if we've been shown enough to allow him to hold down a chapter. Though DanO assures me that he's growing with each chapter. We shall see.

The duality aspect of Odan interests me the most because it's delightfully weird and I wish it was explored more. The skull seems to contain the "essence" of Odan the God as opposed to the body of the scribe containing the shell of Odan the Man...the opening conversation between the skull and Odan (or whoever that is) remains probably one of the more interesting dialogues with Odan in recent memory. His shouted explanation that he "sinned" and now Moultrance writes the records of the world sets up a conflict that I'd definitely like to see more fully explored in the context of the upheavals the world is about to experience, with the dragons getting ready to run rampant and body counts rising by the second. The conflict between Moultrance and Odan needs a single, simple aspect to it...since they're both scribes my idea would be to make it objectiveism (no, not that Ayn Rand thing, please...once through a fifty page John Galt speech was enough, no matter how entertaining the rest of the book was) and subjectiveism... I tend to shoehorn philosophical ideas (or stuff I try to pass off as grade school philosophy, not being especially deep myself) as the core ideas that my stories are wrapped around...such things give readers food for thought as well as some nice verbal eye candy to play with. In this case, it's been stated that Odan is a bit of a maverick Scribe, he doesn't break the rules per se but it's been stated that he does a lot of things that scribes don't normally do...I see him as the subjective approach, immersing himself in the flavors of life and involving himself to a degree that isn't very common among scribes. Odan seems to want to be part of the stories he's writing about, he wants to be a character in his own life. Moultrance may be the more objective scribe, merely recording and observing, moving silently and invisibly (which we know he can somewhat do...hell he snuck up on the soon headless Odan) and scribbling in his book, doing what he feels a scribe should do. And in some sense his brief truimph over Odan (perhaps the demise of the Shadowed Lands can be explained partially as Odan's fault, he got too involved and the land collapsed) is a triumph of his philosophy over Odan's...the "See, I was right?" factor. The psychic scism this caused made Odan split into two nearly distinct beings, each odd extremes of the other. The Skull is so objective that he's almost arrogant, he has no need for a name because names are subjective things carrying their own weight. Odan as the scribe is merely a man who feels everything perhaps too deeply, rendering him almost impotent. It's the combination of the two that makes Odan the man he was, each segment on its own merely spins its wheels and goes about everything in the wrong way.

But that's how I see the crux of the Moultrance/Odan debate and whatever DanO does decide to go with I'd make it more than "Have at thee!" and two men hitting each other for pages and sparring with giant furry beasts. Mine is just an idea to get your whacked out brain working...but you may have it all figured out already.

And don't even ask me who I think killed Malef's future wife...I don't think Kenicy has the same idea as me and would probably smack me for even suggesting it. I've got a whole scene in my head surrounding that as well. See what you people do to me?

Where the hell did Malef come from? We knew he was behind but he comes absolutely out of nowhere...just a little build up might help there, your pacing is still decent but you have this tendancy to jump around a whole lot and repeat scenes with little new information and too much overlap. The fight between Malef and Craven and Odan is choreographed with an odd amount of detail toward wrestling, either you're dabbling in a favorite hobby or you were Hulk Hogan in another life. And while the fighting is cleanly detailed and easy to follow (well until you start jumping around but we'll get to that) it lacks a bit of the brutality that might stream from Malef really wanting Craven dead. I mean, the guy is huge and clearly wants Craven dead, he has his hands around his neck for the love of God and what does he do...throws him across the room. Break his neck already? What are you waiting for? Some dialogue between Malef and Craven (however strained) might add some emotion to the scene, with Craven frantically trying to convince his brother that he didn't do it and almost convincing Malef, who is so torn between wanting vengeance and believing his brother that he merely flings Craven across the room, not sure what to do either way. But considering that it's been stated several times that Malef is: (a) big and strong and (b) got a madon for Craven...he really seems to take his time killing him. Just get it over with already, he's almost toying with him.

The scene with Odan touching the skull is odd...it seems to be a good thing and yet Odan freaks when he realizes he's touched the skull. Plus if he's truly merging Scribe and Odan I think it comes too early...perhaps Moultrance can't detect the mere scribe and thus it's in Odan's best interests to remain as the simple Scribe until he's got his plan against Moultrance all sewn up. His character also remains a bit inconsistent, he's bursting with zeal and confidence when he first meets Craven and now he's all cowardly and wimpy. Strange.

Now, if DanO were me, when Odan touched the skull he would have assaulted the reader with a variety of increasingly bizarre nonlinear free assocative imagery (I call it verbal feedback) to give us a sense of the experience that Odan is going through with the transference...perhaps ending the whole ordeal with a simply worded "yes"

DanO, for better or worse, seems to be a fan of the "left field" school of writing...now where did Bijou come from? And Odan's in the bloody pool again? Good God how many times is he going to emerge and then fall back in again, this is like the third time. However Craven isn't complaining since it means he's saved (hey, Odan always wins, eh?) and the fight between Odan and Malef is one sided but still done well...some technical notes...Malef would probably rub the side of his face first before lunging at Odan and not both at the same time, as you seem to hint. I'm a black belt and I don't have the coordination for that.

I would switch back and forth between the Odan and Craven sections more...we've got Odan falling into the pool and coming out and smacking Malef ("Smack me!" has to be the most inadvertantly funny line in the whole section...you may want to change that into a question mark though it still seems like he's asking Odan to hit him again ("Thank you sir may I have another...")) and then you repeat the entire section again with much the same information only from Odan's point of view...I'd have Craven watch Odan fall into the pool, switch to Odan's thoughts as he crawls out and then switch back to Craven again as Odan smacks Malef...the reader will have all the necessary stuff and it'll still be a surprise that Odan whacks Malef like that (it's not what I expected him to do...why does nobody think to nail Malef in the nuts, this isn't a time to play fair, children...I'd have kicked them into his throat by now).

Coming from a man who writes a character who takes out a roomful of people (but he sweats while doing it!) I probably shouldn't comment on Odan's fight with Malef but Odan has such command of the situation that it seems weird he just doesn't end it. He obviously knows what he's doing and I don't think he'd want to drag it out. The pressure point thing was a nice touch and swift thinking that I have to tip my hat to (still how does he reach, he's in a bearhug...why not a kick to the nuts...I know I'm obsessed with violence done to testicles tonight)...I know from bitter, bitter experience that pressure points hurt like hell when done properly (though the one Odan doesn't work on me...ticked off the instructor something fierce...but I paid for it later, trust me) and Malef's reaction is quite natural, since it feels like someone hit you with a block of wood on both sides of your head.

Boy does it take a lot to keep Malef down though. I must admit the fight has a certain excitement to it...if you ignore the fact that Odan can do this stuff in his sleep it's rather interesting...being that Bijou shows up right when Odan hits the pool, why the hell doesn't Odan just step back and let Bijou finish the fight off...Malef not possessing either tremendous mental powers or a sword that cuts through anything (indirect reference! score!) will probably not find the battle a pleasant experience. Especially since Bijou (or The Bijou, isn't that what you call a movie theatre in the olden days?) is rather protective of Mr Odan.

The singing bolo was interesting. I'd tell it to shut up after a while, that would not be pleasant if you're trying to be stealthy. The rhyme scheme still reminds me of the Demon after Alan Moore got through with him "We suffer as we choose, nothing's amiss, all torments are deserved, none more than this..." "And what shall you do, pray tell, punish me, send me perhaps to hell..." it takes a good writer to give dialogue to someone who speaks entirely in verse, I can't do it (keep finding myself using the word orange...d'oh!)... hell the one little verse (is that DanO or Kenicy?) is far more than I can do.

And so ends the section almost lost to time. As we all know the next section consists of Craven and Odan chatting and then diving back (!) into the damned pool and I don't remember where they went after that. Odan touched the skull which is interesting to me since it seems a good and bad thing, I think it's too early but maybe that's the point since Odan after that seems a bit schizo, the two parts of his duality might alternate in reasserting themselves which may lead to interesting conflicts (also Moultrance may be only able to detect the one half...leading to endless frustration as Odan randomly switches right as he's going to get a fix on his position and finish what he started)...since it's not exactly explained what happened when Odan touched the skull (or why it was a bad thing, I know Craven's not about to ask) I think dropping hints would be much appreciated and definitely some explorations of what it does to his personality. The only problem is that we really didn't see his personality in a stable fashion beforehand so we have little to base this on. Still it's something you may want to think about, as the story stretches on you'll probably recalculate several times how you're going to pace it.

That finishes that then...at this point more Odan is better Odan because for such a dynamic character we need to see flashes of what makes him tick even if it's only hints and shadows. I would really focus on him and build the chapter up, with Craven not with him anymore Odan either has to find a different foil or work on his own...either was has its benefits and minuses depending on where you want to go with Mr Odan. With Tristian I've often done it both ways, he can play the game equally well by himself ("Home in is Your Head") or having someone to work off of (any Ranos story or any one where the Time Patrol appears). Odan is supposed to be larger than life I think so the usual stuff that I do won't apply...I generally try to picture a character in the most boring situation possible (like eating dinner with a friend) and trying to dig into the character himself to make that scenario interesting. Odan doesn't seem to work that way and neither do most fantasy characters lend themselves to that particular exercise, it's all the epic saving the world we are the princes and kings oh look at that fireball I just flung stuff. I don't have all the answers and if I did I'm sure I'd be fairly insufferable (like I'm not now) but DanO has plenty of ideas for the character and a good firm grasp of him...he just needs to convey them to the reader in a well paced and coherent fashion that satisfies and interests us while at the same time making us want more.

On that note, I shall be off. Since this will wind up in the current chapter six I'm sure, Nova can just file this with that until she gets a chance to stick it somewhere ("I'll tell the sod where he can stick it..." Nova is probably muttering, not that she talks like that) and I'm looking forward to seeing her updates as well as the new chapters that are about to pop onto the website. Being caught up is no fun...come on, folks, swamp me. School starts in two weeks and Pouches is going to get very, very quiet for twenty eight weeks. Get them in while you can for the patented Pouches treatment. Boo-yah.

Heh. Some days I wonder why I'm not on medication.

Bye all!

- Michael

"The boy acts like they own the world and women keep their stupid diaries..."
- The Magnetic Fields, "Suddenly a Tidal Wave"


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