Critique of Chapter VI(C)
By: Dhalgren99


And a-cowerin' back I come...geez, stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest the last few days, it seems...boy could you guys turn those evil glares somewhere else, it's making it a bit warm in here. I must commend everyone on the ongoing recent debates, everyone managed to acquit themselves fairly well (other than that commenting guy, who I still don't think knows what he's talking about), in my opinion, stating their viewpoints (sometimes disparate) without losing the politeness that has become a trademark of the crew here. Nice.

I was thinking that this'll probably be a safe chapter, you know, no controversies to fling out to the audience, no archiac points that occur to nobody but myself that I shall debate like they're the most important points in the world (and if they come from my hallowed head, indeed, they must be)...and then I saw it was a Odan chapter. Oh crap. Here we go.

I must say this chapter is more coherent than the early chapters were...now I guess that we've settled the origins of Odan and completed his transition from the now defunct Shadowed Lands the stories will get less metaphorical...this chapter is for the most part highly readable.

Couple of technical notes...this chapter seems to be a directc conclusion of the previous Odan chapter (and it's so noted at the top...good show, chaps) even as much as continuing action that had previously been going on. And while that's good for a periodical I want to throw this out to the audience here...is there any reason why this can't be condensed with the other chapter, much like Hensbane's and FragmentFour's chapters have been, you know that separate part thing? Because it doesn't seem to me to be any reason why they have to be separated by so many other chapters...especially since this serves to mess up Craven's continuity even more...you've got him being shown going into the Vent and then meeting Odan and talking with him and then in between is a flashback chapter and then back to the wonderous chat between Craven and Odan. I mean, unless DanO has a thirteen fetish (and why not?) other than the fact that he must have wrote them as part of two different writing cycles, for the sake of the reader, can't they be condensed? I shall leave that question and answer completely in the capable hands of you fine folks.

All that nutty technical stuff done, this was a real short chapter...the opening paragraph is a bit confusing, where does Bijou wind up, it seems like Odan is commanding the dogthing (whomever knows fear, BURNS at the Dogthing's lick!) to leap on Malef but it winds up that someone knocks the other dwarf to the ground and then Odan performs what I can only assume what a sleeper hold is. After rereading it...where the heck does Malef come from, the end of the last section with Odan only has him proclaiming that he's not the Scribe yet...I like abrupt beginnings but this may be a bit too abrupt, unless the beginning to this is hidden in the end of one of Kenicy's chapters (and it doesn't seem to be) I'm awful confused. How about Malef bursting in on them while Odan and Craven are talking and then Odan having Bijou knock him down before Odan himself jumps in to send Malef into naptime?

In any event, most of the chapter consists of a conversation between Odan and Craven which illuminates the situation for both of them...for my sake it's fun to note that the beginning of the "Let's Get Odan to the Inn" Movement is here and to this day I don't believe it has been done. Hang in there, DanO, someday your dream will come true. Odan is much more human here even if he does seem to still know everything, it's "obvious" to him that Craven didn't kill anybody...good judge of character, not that I think Odan has anything to worry about even if Craven was a psychotic killer, between Bijou the Fuzzy and Odan himself, Craven's sorely outmatched here. Maybe he can sing them to death. Wrong time to polish that four octave range, buddy.

Some sentences were kind of confusing, which can be a DanO trademark sometimes. Here's one for youse.

"Oh! Well, obviously you didn't. However, you'd be interested in finding the true killer, no doubt?" asked Odan, riveting the bard's attention with the obviousness of the situation and his true desperation to prove his innocence...

For some reason, the whole part after "Odan" makes little sense to me...those words just don't seem to go together and this is from a man who matches up some pretty strange phrases sometimes. Are you trying to say that Odan instantly perceives Craven's desire to be proven innocent in the eyes of his brother and family and that it's fairly obvious to understand when you hear him talk about it? Am I close? Please?

Moving on...other stuff on a technical level...try to keep all a character's dialogue in the same paragraph, a couple of times you've got Craven saying some stuff and then in the next paragraph he's still talking:

You're going to the inn, too?" inquired Craven with feigned astonished innocence. "You know, scribe, you're going to need some coin at the inn," added Craven, a concept forming in his mind, all the while glancing at Malef who now snored deeply aloud."Dressed like that will cause quite a stir at the inn," pointed Craven towards the golden-hued, flawlessly woven loincloth beaded with fine crystals, wondering at its worth."Is that how a scribe dresses from --"

That whole section was really confusing, especially the "Is that how a..." because there's nothing to indicate who's speaking and a reader will automatically assume that it's Odan because it's a new paragraph. Mush them all together if you have to, also try to avoid having people talking in sentence fragments for no reason...Craven should probably wind up saying something like, "So, you're going to the Inn, too...hope you've brought coin along in that costume...is that how a scribe is supposed to be dressed, it's certainly going to cause quite the stir..."

Okay so it's not perfect but you see what I'm getting at I hope. People tend to talk in a very fluid fashion, especially since Craven is starting to do the fast talking bit he's probably going to keep talking so as to not call attention to the details of what he's saying, letting his voice win Odan over (boy, is he playing with the wrong person). I do like the rapid fire conversation though, even though the situation really doesn't call for it (I like to use that kind of thing in tense situations, but that's just nutty me), and the overall structure is quite the departure from most of the other authors, I don't know if I like it better per se, the short choppy paragraphs aren't overly descriptive but they aren't Hemingway either...I think if you want to do that you're going to have to set up some sort of "rhythm" to carry the reader from paragraph to paragraph, if they constantly feel like they're stopping and starting...but that's way too complicated a concept for me to even attempt, even with a receptive audience, people say I do it but I can't even really explain how it happens, it's easier for psychological stuff because you can alternate winding sentences with a more rapid barrage...it probably sounds like I'm babbling nonsense but it does work, if I can dig up examples from anywhere I'll try to send them your way.

Boy, Odan is very much the charmer, I certainly wouldn't accept "I have no name because I wear the cloth of innocence" as a reasonable explanation but Odan seems to be monkeying around with Craven's head in a subtle fashion. The skull also seems to be exerting some kind of influence as well, it's not as talkative as it was in the last chapter...I can only imagine the rest of Odan is somewhere inside the skull. I like the concept of Odan being two people...the Scribe and the scribe...by focusing on the "scribe" as opposed to Ultra-Odan from the prologue (okay he did get his head chopped off but we dealt with that back then) I think you're in a good shape since he seems more much human...it's still hard to relate to him because he's so mysterious, Craven gets the better end of the psychological stick here, his confusion and sudden shift to opportunistic guy is well done, he's someone who always tries to stay on top of a situation, very much a man who uses his wits, even though Odan terms him the "Warrior Bard" (wasn't doing too good against Malef, were ya now?)...though right now Odan has the upper hand. Hopefully if the two of them stick together for a while we'll see Craven bailing Odan out as well and not Odan coming up with the plans, the bond between the two men will best be shown if there's a sort of balance. But that's an issue for later adventures.

Dear God, they jump into the pool AGAIN...didn't we do that already. I didn't reread all the chapters but there seem to be quite a few overlaps between the various Odan/Craven chapters...Kenicy and DanO may want to get together and hammer that out a bit since all of them seem to be happening at the same time.

All in all a spiffy chapter, the interaction between Odan and Craven is good, playing off Craven's feelings of being in way over his head and trying to turn this situation into something he can use as well as Odan's confusion over what's going on (even though he doesn't show it)...he's still very much in control, I think which can be good or bad...however the focus of the early chapters seems to be to get him to the Inn, Odan knows he needs to do that and thus it's not really the main quest. When the big stuff starts happening I think we're going to (hopefully) see Odan have to work more overtime than he has. But there's a time and place for that, I suppose.

Seems to be mostly a transitional chapter to get Odan and Craven out of the Vent more than anything else, entertaining as it is...I'm a big fan of the "two blokes standing around talking" motif but I prefer much more description of what they're doing. Believe me, as I've said in the past, nobody just stands there like a robot and delivers their dialogue, they're going to pace around, shuffle their feet, wring their hands, all that stuff can make the scene come more alive for the reader. Is Bijou pacing around in the background and making Craven nervous, is he staring at the dogthing while talking to Odan...keep those things in mind, a good dialogue can be just as exciting as the most riveting of action scenes if you've got all the right components.

But you know what, I enjoyed this, hopefully now the Craven/Odan plot will move forward now that the backstory has been told...please consider what I said about putting that stuff in order and organizing it...confusing is one thing it definitely runs the risk of becoming... even a simple timeline to put events in order would be a great help.

As for currency, kingdoms, etc, I figured that wouldn't be worked out right away and would be up to the individual writers...I think as the story gets all the various balls rolling and becomes more epic in scope and widens the picture a bit we'll start to see the character's actions reflected on a grander scale...Odan running around has got to make some king nervous somewhere...I didn't mean to suggest that the writers should have the entire social, economic and political structure worked out yet, that'll hopefully come in time and some writers will enjoy doing that stuff more than others. I just wanted to mention it as something to keep in mind for later, since it's probably going to be a big part of the novel. Speaking strictly personally, it's rather exciting watching this whole thing being built up...I have my own giant world to play in and believe me when I say that I'll be taking notes when the threads start to come together so I can try and work them into my stuff...the overall structure of my Universe is a tad more ramshackle at the moment than I'd like it to be.

So keep up the good work, DanO, others, and I'll do my best to steal, er, pay tribute to your stuff when I get the chance. It's been fun so far.

Okay, all I think that's all the Pouches you can stomach tonight so I'll let this sucker fly.

Bye now!

- Michael

"Better stop dreaming of the quiet life 'cause it's one you'll never know..."
- The Jam, "Town Called Malice"


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