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Fate Of Yrenta Review Topic

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#1 Offline The Iron Toa

The Iron Toa
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Posted Mar 27 2012 - 11:06 PM

This is the review topic for my third epic, Fate of Yrenta.It is finished at 24 chapters.

Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 16 2013 - 01:47 AM.

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End of Yrenta (Review Topic) (Currently at 55 Chapters)

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#2 Offline GSR

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Posted Jan 18 2013 - 07:47 PM

Hey there The Iron Toa! Now that we got the posting issues all cleared up, I can dive into this here ECC charity review! If you're not famililar with my reviewing style (and you probably aren't :P), I like to divide these things into two sections: one for looking at prose, and the other for looking at content (eg. plot, structure, characters, etc.) I also prefer not to focus on every little nitpick; instead, I'll try to pick a few selected examples and provide some advice that you can hopefully work off of in a general sense. With that established, let's dive in, shall we?So, starting off with prose. First off, a tip of the hat; while reading, I didn't really spot any major spelling or grammar errors. That's not to say there weren't any, just that overall there weren't any that caught my eye or showed up often. So good job! Unfortunately, prose is a lot more than orthographical correctness, or I'd have to give the dictionary a perfect score on this front, so let me hit some other concerns:Your prose in general is lacking the sort of flow I'd hope for from a story's narration. Let's do a pair of examples, one from the beginning and one from the end:
At the helm, Vesai, Toa of Water, gestured apologetically at Tanu. She had moved the boat into a current more suddenly than she had meant, with no warning, causing the jolt. But the Toa of Plasma wasn't paying attention. Apparently he had spaced out again, lost in memories of the war. He wasn't the only one. Toa Vesai had made the slight miscalculation because she was deep in thought, too. Vesai had always been gentle and peaceful at heart. She had been a merchant, however, and sometimes had to travel to dangerous places. One day, she was badly injured. After recovering, she had taken to carrying a shield and a Rhotuka launcher to protect herself. But she never killed anything. Even after becoming a Toa, she still tried to act as gently as she could.
In this example, you're being very staccato in how you narrate, with a lot of short, disconnected sentences. Consider "He wasn't the only one. Toa Vesai had[...]" - although this is supposed to link naturally from the previous event of Tanu spacing out, it feels disjointed due to the idea being divided by that period. What would seem more natural is combining the two sentences there as, for example, "He wasn't the only one; in truth, Toa Vesai had[...]". However, the following discussion of Vesai's background would still feel a little out-of-place, in my opinion, since the context of these thoughts is the war; it would make more sense to immediately discuss the war, and then work the backstory into her reflections on that. As it is now, it feels very sudden, as though we're just getting a random anecdote dropped in our lap. What's more, the final three sentences could be combined into two; consider "[...]to protect herself - but she never killed anything." This use of a dash provides a brief 'pause' in the narration while still allowing the ideas to be linked.
Lidon and his brothers had had similar successes since then, although the lands were far from safe. The goblins prowled plains, jungles, valleys, and mountains still. And most alarming of all was the report that the edges of Metaku's realm, long haunted by cave-goblins and other deadly subterranean creatures, were being mysteriously melted. The Onu-Matoran were baffled. They had first attributed it to seismic activity, but further examination disproved that idea. Rightfully worried, Metaku had called on the Toa to investigate. Due to the death of Kryaju and Lidon's nearly disastrous encounter with the aquatic people, Vibrak decided it would be best if his entire team investigated. Whatever threatened the underground realm, it might have been far too dangerous for one or two Toa alone.
Again, you're splitting ideas here that don't need to be split; the first two sentences could easily be combined through a semicolon or dash and flow a good deal more naturally. Furthermore, I've noticed that when you do use transitions between sentences, you don't always pick an appropriate one; here the phrase "And most alarming of all" mostly works - it's the most alarming thing, after all - but to really show the trouble here, you might want to use something like "But most alarming of all" or "Yet more concerning than that". I'd aim for the latter, myself, as you've only provided one issue before using "and most alarming of all" - which would ordinarily be used after providing a pretty long list of issues. I'm also finding your word choice for some of the later sentences a little off; "Rightfully worried" feels like you're unnecessarily telegraphing the fact that this is a real crisis, and "due to the death of" feels overly clinical - it feels more natural to me to use something less formal, like "Still wary after the death[...]". And once more (since you do it a lot, I'll emphasize it a lot :P) - you're splitting sentences that don't need to be split. The final two sentences could be easily joined with a dash or semicolon, or even by writing it as "if his entire team investigated, as whatever threatened the underground realm could very well be too dangerous for one or two Toa alone."This leads me into my next big point I'd like to hit about your style - it tends to feel pretty dry or detached at times, even during dramatic sequences. Consider the end of Spiileus' encounter with his double:
This is not over! You and your friends will die! And you will be the one who kills you and your friends! was heard from the shadows. At that, what was left of the structure's ceiling fell, burying the Toa. He quickly burst out, unharmed, but his attacker was gone. That his bedroom was destroyed did not trouble him, he had no possessions of value in it. In fact, his only possessions not on his person were his few secondary masks, safely stored elsewhere. His attacker's appearance, escape, and parting words troubled everyone greatly.
First, you've opted to use the passive voice for the Shadow Toa's parting taunt ("was heard"), which creates a bit of a sense of detachment. Immediately after that, you note the ceiling falls and Spiileus quickly escapes, but you do it in about two sentences with a minimum of description - the result is that the reader doesn't really feel like they're seeing the scene, but rather reading a summary. This sense of detachment is furthered by the aside about Spiileus' possessions; given the situation, you'd expect the focus to be more on the Shadow Toa that just escaped, rather than the state of the bedroom and how Spiileus stored his other masks elsewhere. Finally, the last sentence is a pretty textbook example of telling and not showing; by simply saying that the parting words "troubled everyone greatly", it feels almost mundane and even a little unnecessary - it would feel more natural to perhaps narrate the group taking in the words, and let the reader rightfully infer that they were troubling indeed.I'd also like to say your dialogue can be a little unnatural. For a pair of examples, let's look at chapter 23: Lidon opens battle by calling Now, it begins! Let us show them our special advantage!. I really just can't see someone yelling about "our special advantage" - I understand that it ties back into his speech, but can you imagine a leader crying that out? In dialogue especially, it's worth it to consider your word choice and make sure the sentence sounds natural. One good trick for ensuring this is, if possible, to read the sentence out loud once you're done writing it.For another example, once Lidon encounters the underwater enemies, he alerts the Matoran, who respond Oh dear! We will tell them. While I know BZP's rather restrictive on foul language, I'd expect at least a little more emotion from them than "Oh dear!", wouldn't you? ;) Similarly, "we will tell them" sounds a little calm for the situation. It's also rather out of the blue, so you'd expect the Matoran to be showing some confusion or surprise, not just concern.When you put all this together, I think the biggest objection I have to your writing style is that it just doesn't feel very personal. Not every story is meant to be deeply personal, or entirely focused on its characters, but with the lack of flow and sense of detachment present, it's hard for the reader to get involved in what they're reading.Now let's move onto the structure and plot of the piece. First off, let me commend you on putting so much into your story in terms of original areas and creatures; you've opted to create a new area of the universe, with its own characters, struggles, and histories rather than work with existing characters. This is a good thing, generally speaking - it helps you grow as a writer to create your own stuff. Yet you've done well in staying in the universe in terms of what is and isn't there - your Toa use their elemental and mask powers in a variety of ways, the Makuta are doing what they do best, and all that good stuff.That said, I've got some issues with the pacing and plot of the story. I think the biggest thing I noticed is that you're leaning very heavily on action or war-like sequences throughout - there's barely a chapter that goes by without some sort of fight. You should remember that while it's a good rule of thumb to have something happen every chapter, that doesn't always translate into direct conflict. In fact, I'd argue that without breathers for us to get to know the characters and their world, the action scenes are significantly diminished in value, since they're so frequent. This is particularly noticeable around the middle of the story, where you present a number of larger-scale battles one after the other, resulting in periods where I just felt disconnected from what was happening; there were Matoran fighting, and wars raging, and I couldn't get involved in it because it was all starting to run together.This problem is exacerbated by your tendency to jump forward hundreds of years at a time. Stories follow their own pace, I know, and if you don't think much of note happened between year A and year B, by all means skip it. But the sheer number of times you jump forward means the reader has to keep shifting their reference point, and getting summaries of "the past X years have had this happen" makes the reader feel detached from the world. You don't need to show every detail, of course, but it's disorienting to have to keep checking "what year is it?"This brings me to my next point, which is that your treatment of your characters is strange, for lack of a better way to put it. Most of their time is spent fighting some threat or other, and there's a minimal amount of interaction between them or views of how they're developing. Consider the start of chapter 17, some 700 years after the previous chapter. Among other things, the opening passage includes this:
Soon after the Battle of the Pass of Iron, they had become disillusioned with themselves, and considered giving up their status as Toa. But in the end they had regained their confidence and chosen to continue as Toa, mainly because the young Matoran needed protectors and mentors.
That's a pretty big internal struggle there, but we've skipped over it entirely. It's a piece of character development, true, but this is a pretty bad case of telling and not showing. Not only that, but the following chapters deal with the Shadow Toa, bringing us into what should be an important source of conflict - but the Shadow Toa threat manifests itself mostly as a series of action sequences, and though Vibrak's encounter with the 'ghosts' provides an interesting perspective on the morality of Yrenta's nigh-endless war, it gets glossed over by Vibrak going berserk and killing the Matoran. While that's a pretty big source of conflict for him, it's also one that could've been caused by any number of tricks in the Bionicle universe. Even Vibrak's Shadow Toa ultimately focuses on that rampage, rather than the questions posed by the Matoran beforehand, and Vibrak accepts it after that. It feels like you've passed over a much more interesting question for him to grapple with.You've also opted for this to be a story in which characters can get killed off very suddenly. While that's not a bad thing, the effect is kind of weakened because I never connected to any of the characters all that much. Krayju's death was brutal, and it's good you gave the leadup to it screentime, but I have to admit I was more affected on a "whoa, he just killed off a main character" level than a "whoa, he just killed off Krayju" level, if you get what I mean.As for the ending, it's a bit sudden, but I can't really fault you that - you clearly wanted to use the Great Cataclysm as the cutoff point.To a degree, I think my criticisms above may just stem from what you're aiming to do with these stories - you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the overall vibe that the focus of this story isn't really the Toa and Matoran of Yrenta, but rather Yrenta itself and the struggles it undergoes as a region. There's nothing wrong with that, and if that's what you're going for, things like time skips and characters frequently and realistically meeting their ends are entirely appropriate. But unfortunately between your slightly detached style and the way the plot is structured, I found it difficult to connect with the work as a whole. As I said earlier, you've done a good job creating a new part of the Bionicle universe, and I commend you for that - but you need to work on making it a little more inviting to the reader. Granted, there's a follow-up story to this which I haven't read, so for all I know you've improved on just the issues I've listed above - but even if so, a reminder can't hurt. :PHopefully the above critique has been helpful - let me know if you have any questions. And I apologize if it feels overly harsh - chalk it up to this being the first review I've done in a while and the fact I personally prefer more character-focused works. I realize I've given a lot here, but don't feel discouraged; just start taking these a step at a time. You've done a pretty great deal here - it just needs a little more work to start shining. :)

Edited by GSR, Jan 18 2013 - 07:50 PM.

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Hey: I'm not very active around BZP right now.  However, you can always contact me through PM (I have email notifications set up) and I will reply as soon as I can.

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