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The Constructive Criticism Thread:

Please read the rules below before posting. We're taking turns to post text, and text posted out of turn will be hollered.

The discussion over at the "Is being Troperiffic a Bad Thing?" thread got a few of us seriously talking about starting a full-fledged, free for all dedicated ConCrit thread. Thanks go to your friendly neighborhood Herald, Chihuahua0, for giving this the go-ahead smile

This is how it's going to work:
  • This thread is for helping people improve as writers. Please stay away from needlessly gushing or needlessly being mean when handing out criticism.
  • No mentioning your own work when giving out criticism. This is to prevent "Let's talk about ME" derails.
  • Feedback will be given to one person at a time. We're taking a deliberately slow pace; a person's turn to get feedback is generally supposed to last a week, but we're not ending someone's turn until they get feedback from at least five different people. On the other hand, the person getting feedback can end their own turn if they figure they're done.
  • When a turn ends, we wait 12 hours to see if anyone of the people who have just given feedback wants to be up next. If they don't, we pick the person up next from the feedback request list.
  • Yes, it's okay to point out spelling and grammar errors made by the person you're giving feedback to.
  • If you're unfamiliar with the original verse of a piece of Fan Fiction up for feedback, pretend it's a piece of original fiction and criticize accordingly.
  • If and when you step up to receive feedback:
    • Post actual writing (not world-building, concepts, layouts, character lists and so on).
    • Be specific in what you are looking for, or at least mention what is troubling you the most.
    • Fan Fiction is fine, but take into account that anyone not familiar with the source material will judge your piece "blind", essentially by the same standards as original fiction. This means you might get called out on flaws that fan fiction usually gets away with in practice, perhaps even justifiably so. Just like any other kind of criticism, consider it or ignore at at your discretion.
    • Be ready to hear some things you probably didn't want to hear. This should go without saying, but, please: No being bitter, being sarcastic, calling people out for "going too far" or otherwise expressing disapproval of the criticism given to you. If you think people are being unfair to your writing, make your case civilly.

With that said, I suppose we can begin and see whether this goes anywhere. The first person to respond with a post to the extent of "I'll go first" will go first.

edited 17th Feb '12 5:07:01 PM by TripleElation

 376 Saturn, Sun, 1st Apr '12 5:11:28 PM from On The Rings Relationship Status: I-It's not like I like you, or anything!
Hurr
I often have to think about this when writing my scripts. If a scene doesn't work by itself, it might not be a good scene.

 377 nrjxll, Sun, 1st Apr '12 5:46:11 PM Relationship Status: Not war
This is probably a topic for a thread of its own, but I think that's completely backwards reasoning. Scenes from a longer work should not stand alone - if you try to make them do so, then the work as a whole will suffer.

 378 Saturn, Sun, 1st Apr '12 6:19:28 PM from On The Rings Relationship Status: I-It's not like I like you, or anything!
Hurr
So, if you were to watch one scene of a movie, the scene can only work in conjunction with the other scenes all together?

As opposed to the scene just being...good?

Trolling Swordsman
Some scenes can stand alone. Others require knowledge that you could only get from watching the movie up to that point. If your excerpt is one of the second, such knowledge should be provided before we are given the actual piece.

 380 nrjxll, Sun, 1st Apr '12 6:42:14 PM Relationship Status: Not war
If you tried to make every scene from a movie "good" without worrying whether they all fit together or not, what you'll wind up with is a series of vignettes, not a movie in the sense of any kind of unified story.

I personally feel that no, a scene from a movie taken without regard to the rest of the movie quite possibly is not good, but that's a more subjective area. But I would think that everyone can agree that trying to make every scene in a single work capable of standing without the rest is quite likely to mean that it's no longer a single work.

Again, this is turning into a derail.

Trolling Swordsman
I don't know. We could get a new rule out of this discussion: "If your piece requires knowledge that can only be obtained outside of itself, you must provide the critics with it."

 382 Saturn, Sun, 1st Apr '12 7:06:04 PM from On The Rings Relationship Status: I-It's not like I like you, or anything!
Hurr
I don't see how you have to have all the knowledge to see the good qualities in something, and I also don't see why you can't focus on both making sure every scene is good alone AND together.

But you are right, derail.

 383 jewelleddragon, Sun, 1st Apr '12 7:48:24 PM from Pasadena, CA
Also known as Katz
Back to the actual piece:

On a technical level, it's in good shape. My main suggestion is to vary up the sentence length, particularly with more short sentences, to make it more fluent.

But I'm afraid that Esteban is right, and the central problem is it simply isn't compelling, which is a maddeningly vague problem to solve. (I might write it off as subjective if everyone else didn't have the same reaction.) Some contributing factors:
  • It could be snappier, as Night suggested.
  • We know nothing about Asayu except her appearance. Even in an opening scene, we need a motivation beyond "beat the bad guys" and we need to learn something about her that will make us care whether she, specifically, wins or loses. The prayer for the dead doesn't do it for me, either; it just makes her feel sanctimonious.
  • The cabal isn't very believable. We're supposed to hate them because they're torturing animals, but that doesn't make them seem villainous, it makes them seem unrealistic. We're not given any reason why they're doing what they're doing, nor do they seem to be accomplishing anything.
  • This piece just doesn't feel that distinctive. Why should a prospective reader pick up this story out of the hundreds of urban fantasies out there?

The good news is that the fix could be quite simple. For instance, maybe Asayu has a little brother who got kidnapped by the mages. What's her motivation? She's trying to get her brother back. Why do we want her to succeed? So the brother won't be harmed. The dog-torturing scene will have more impact because, seeing what's happening to the dogs, we'll immediately be wondering what's happened to the brother. And we'll want to keep reading because, while she's defeated the mages, she still hasn't found her brother. (The mages are still unrealistic, but that's now the only major problem.) And that's one of many possible solutions.

Easily entertained
[up]Okay, this is very helpful. Thank you! In particular, I should explain the mages actually have twisted reasons for what they're doing — I'll spare you the explanation for now, but suffice it to say, I'm glad you pointed out how cartoonish they come off as without that rather significant detail.

edited 1st Apr '12 7:54:23 PM by KillerClowns

 385 jewelleddragon, Sun, 1st Apr '12 7:58:27 PM from Pasadena, CA
Also known as Katz
Beginnings are always tricky because you have to economize detail to avoid info dumps, so there's danger of things coming off wrong because you haven't yet explained what puts them in context. But they have to come off right, right from the beginning, lest readers go "well, this is lame" and stop reading.

Want to explain what the mages' motivations are? If you did, I could tell you whether IMO that makes them feel realistic or not. (But you don't have to if you'd prefer not, of course.)

edited 1st Apr '12 8:01:49 PM by jewelleddragon

 386 Stillbirth Machine, Sun, 1st Apr '12 9:47:03 PM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
I'd like to add myself to the wait-list (do I edit my name in at the top or bottom?). As for the actual work, do I PM it to the people who want to review it or just post it publicly here?
Only Death Is Real
Also known as Katz
Bottom of the list. So far everyone has just posted stuff publicly, but I'm sure you could PM it if you didn't want to. (And thanks for reading the first post! grin)

Euo will do!
OK — the promised, more thorough run-through. (Heee! Caffeine rocks!)

Things I liked...

I do like the action that has been provided. And, really, really like the repeat of your protagonist's blessing/prayer/apology. It does say a lot about her own standpoint, without drowning the reader in oceans of philosophical ink.

I have no issues with the scenario as presented, and can get some of the mystical reasoning behind the 'why these guys are seriously bad news', thanks to other reading. For some reason, I was reminded of Katherine Kerr quite a bit. For the magical workings, at least. So, it made sense. In short, I enjoyed the strong urban Wiccan feel.

A little more attention to some of the details (like the aforementioned smell-wave being slower than the sound, for example) and things will be nice and tight, but I liked most of the description around her finding the centre of the problem. I thought your style stabilised quite a lot around there. smile

Things I understood, but have a few issues with...

The use of that purple prose, when punchy will do. As you've mentioned that you've already been through this with a pair of scissors, it makes more sense that the pacing is a bit off. Time for the glue-gun, mate. wink You might have to re-write sections just to get a good flow going again, but that is sometimes the price for using the knife. smile

Things I didn't really get at all...

Decide quickly how Muggles are to be defined by the gifted. And, how the Gifted are to describe themselves in regards to them. And keep it consistent. At the moment, I'm just so confused.

In the main, I liked the mix of the magic and mundane, but thought some of the info dumping more of a harm than a help when mixed with the action. I'm not sure why some of it is so awkwardly there. But, I do chalk that up to the edit, more than anything else.

To conclude, I think the pacing issues with this section are very easily solvable with a slight re-write, concentrating on the areas that got cut the most to give them flow. You can tighten some of the flabby bits at the same time, of course. The action and the plot as given are strong, and need no major tweaks at all. Just the packaging needs a lick of paint. smile

edited 2nd Apr '12 3:31:24 AM by Euodiachloris

"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
 389 Elfhunter, Tue, 3rd Apr '12 9:30:00 AM from India Relationship Status: My elf kissing days are over
For the right price, anything.
Sorry to interrupt the reviews, but how far down the request list are we? I don't think the excerpt I'm writing will be finished anytime soon. Just in case my turn has already passed, should I put myself at the bottom of the list?
"What are you going to do, stab me?" - said the stab victim.
 390 JHM, Tue, 3rd Apr '12 9:32:08 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] If you want to. I requested to be skipped a few pages back...
 391 Elfhunter, Tue, 3rd Apr '12 9:41:38 AM from India Relationship Status: My elf kissing days are over
For the right price, anything.
It's not that I want to be at the end of the list if I get skipped >_< I was wondering if I can push the person to my position and keep going down till I finish writing, or am I just supposed to go straight to the bottom.
"What are you going to do, stab me?" - said the stab victim.
 392 JHM, Tue, 3rd Apr '12 9:43:50 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Either is fine, I believe. Just go after the next person or, if you're really afraid of having something incomplete, just put yourself at the bottom.
As others have said, this piece feels distant and rather bland, especially in the beginning. We get a physical description of the character, a brief explanation of her objective that feels like an infodump ("they were bad guys, so Asayu had to stop them") and nothing that tells us what her motivations are or why should we care whether she succeeds or not. Basically, I got info that I was not interested about, and was left in the dark about everything else.

There were random bits of purple prose scattered in there which got in the way more than they helped, but that's personal preferrence.

I couldn't like Asayu at all. She supposedly does good things, but she can't feel pity for the man who will apparently suffer enternal torment or something after she kills him, because he tortures and kills some animals on behalf of his god. Why couldn't he be just deluded, like the guards could? And her reciting a prayer every time she kills, even when she doesn't give a shit about the victim, makes her look even worse. Now, this wouldn't be a problem by itself, but the villains are portrayed as clearly evil. Apparently, they worship a generically evil being and their riturals only work if they torture and kill innocent beings. This makes it grating when Asayu (On A Quest To Stop The Bad Guys From Torturing And Sacrificing Some Stray Animals To Their Evil God) doesn't appear to be a "good" character herself.

In the end, nothing much seems to have been accomplished. Two guards and an evil priest are dead, and the ceremony is disrupted. I don't know what the ceremony was about or how replacable was the priest, but this doesn't seem like a significant event to me. What prevents the cultists from repeating the ceremony tommorow? This piece certainly doesn't leave much of an impact.

Easily entertained
Well, that was Fun. I knew this portion wasn't my best work — the reason I sent it here — but it looks like it's more fundamentally flawed than I thought. I think I'll scrap what I've got right now and rewrite from blank. Done it before, always for the best. Alright, back to work I go.

I'm more than satisfied with the well-needed advice I've received, but goddamn, it isn't easy to read through. But nothing worth doing is easy.

So on that cheery note, who's on next?

edited 5th Apr '12 1:22:22 PM by KillerClowns

 395 Leradny, Thu, 5th Apr '12 4:45:09 PM from Alameda, CA
From looking at the page: Dealan.

I planned to put here the first ten pages of a comic script, but the document turned out to be huge. Now there is only half of that amount, so this scene may miss some things. The comic is mostly slice of life, for the tone. Because I've never done a comic script ever before and have no idea what I'm doing, this will probably suck from a technical point of view.

Anyway, here.

 397 jewelleddragon, Fri, 6th Apr '12 1:49:18 PM from Pasadena, CA
Also known as Katz
Do you want to allow commenting on that document?

Forgot about that. Now you can.

 399 Esteban 009, Fri, 6th Apr '12 3:42:15 PM from Practically Atlantis
Bitter Hateful Cynic
I like it as a story, but I think you might have gone overboard with the captions and the attention to detail. The more details you want in a single panel, the more will be obscured if you have multiple captions and speech balloons. It's a fine line to walk, you always have to ask yourself if a detail is important, or if it's fluff.

I noticed you're describing the story as if in motion... for a script this might actually hinder the artist.

An example:

We now see the rest of the room, John's area. There is a third desk and a third computer, both of them facing the wall. Near the desk and next to the wall is another stool. On it lies a magazine, closed. (See sketch.) Behind the desk is the room's only window. John is making himself comfortable in his chair. He has taken his jacket off in the meantime. It's on the hanger, though we can't see it. Casual clothing under it. We are looking from a place behind Sharron's head, only a part of which is visible. Her shoulder also may or may not be visible from here.

He has taken his jacket off - important to note, it's a visual cue. in the meantime - this is implied so there is no need to mention it. It's on the hanger - this would be important were not for: though we can't see it - which makes the whole jacket thing redundant to mention.

There is crazy mad attention to detail in this one panel: You see part of someone's head. You see the main character sitting in a chair. He's not just sitting, he's making himself comfortable. He's wearing something casual. There is a third desk. The desk has a computer on it. Both are facing the wall. This wall has the only window in the room. There is also an extra stool. On this stool there is a magazine. The magazine is closed.

I count 11 visual elements that you want your artist to put on paper, eleven details that are important to note.

To my eyes it reads like a story you've converted to a script for a comic. It's solid as a story, but as a script it reads a but uneasy because of the many details and descriptions you are giving your artist. This might be me, because I'm a visual thinker, and maybe because of that I can see a whole lot of movement and flow in a script that deals mostly with the illusion of movement. The pictures don't move, action is implied between panels.

This would read like a solid story, it will end up being an enjoyable comic if your artist is capable of delivering, but the format of a script is something that I find myself struggling to give feedback on. So what I just mentioned above, it's just me speculating and pointing things out that raise questions in me. Which boils down to one single question "how much detail do you think is appropriate and needed for a single panel?"

That's the only thing I've learned fromm comic-book scripts, you start with the bare minimum:

Panel one. A room, Jason is in the middle of the room, he is smiling,

Panel two Jason is in the room and Susan is also in the room, she is frowning. Jason: "What is wrong Susan?"

Panel three: Susan is still frowning, Jason has a neutral face. "My neighbour ate my baby brother"

And to be fair, even the room is more than the bare minimum, since the three-panel story could just as easily be told with just the two characters' faces.

So yeah, basic question you should ask: what's an important detail for the reader to see and take notice of?

About that one panel, I mentioned all the details for future reference. Mention all the details in that one so that the artist has a good idea where is where. Which I think is what one is supposed to be doing, but I may be wrong. But yeah, it is one giant wall of text that is confusing even to me, so there's definitely a problem with it. I'm just not sure what to do about it.

Good point with the basic question, though. What I first read about comic scripts is that most new scripters put too little details in there, and expect artists to fill the huge blanks, so I tried to include everything that I felt was needed. So I put a hanger in there because jackets have to go somewhere, for example, and before I know it there is a huge list of "necessary" items I have to include.

I have no excuse about the amount of dialog and captions. I know I'm pushing it, and will probably need a couple of pages or so to make panels bigger.

Thanks for the help.

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