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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Start to fantasy novel

   
Author Topic: Start to fantasy novel
rstone72
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The amber flickers of candlelight stretched and spun in the mirrored surface of the holy sphere. The Arch Prelate Kirimia caressed its perfection, studying it with her fingertips as if for the first time; as she did every time. It was cool, and enigmatically smooth, unquestionably beyond the capacity of humans or pures to create. The hairs on the nape of her neck pulled away from her heavy bones as her existence in the physical world instinctually struggled to keep its bearings, even as existential vistas seemed to open before it. Time lost its sway.

Her fingers remained in constant motion, drawing invisible circles in the compressing space between her consciousness and the presence of the Orb. Her senses were loosed from their moorings and drained slowly, out from her head and body, through her arms and hands, finally dripping, bit by bit, into the Orb’s reflection. The low sound of her own monotone chant, the damp warmth of the Holy Chamber and even her anxiety about the task at hand, disappeared as she first entered the Orb.


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Survivor
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Please state the nature of the medical emergency.
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Lord Darkstorm
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It has a nice flow, but for the life of me...I have no clue what is going on. It isn't bad, but the description seems a bit heavy to me.

I have to admit the phrasing is nice, but the second sentance made me pause. From what I did get out of it, she has a strong fascination with the orb, but if she is "studying it with her fingertips as if for the first time" and she has done this more times than she could count...this is a bit more contradiction that my mind is willing to accept.

Just my thoughts.


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NewsBys
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This sentence freaked me out.

quote:
The hairs on the nape of her neck pulled away from her heavy bones

I couldn't figure out what was happening and it sounded gory, as opposed to the sensual opening paragraphs.

Is this an opening paragraph? I feel like I need a "grounding" in the scene and events before this "revelation".


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J. Stewart
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“The hairs on the nape of her neck pulled away from her heavy bones”

Ditto. Weird, eerie, icky! There is lots of great description here, but I found it overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what was happening or how to react to it. To be honest, it left me somewhat bewildered. Can you cut back on the mysticism until you have established the action and the character?


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Inkwell
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I enjoyed the excerpt, despite the 'heavy' nature of the prose (which I did not find to be especially excessive). Your sparing use of alliteration was refreshing (most description of such depth that I read is usually over-balanced in this area, including my own). The only problem I can see is the aforementioned presence of ambiguity...not severe, to be sure, but still evident. The reader has no context to draw upon when perusing this scene.

The identity of Kirimia is limited to her name and rank (the latter having significance within a society we are not yet familiar with). We have no idea if this orb is merely a religious icon, or a device of great technological mastery (or both). I think this is a very well written and conceptualized scene, vivid in both description and diction. However, I agree with several others in that it may not function effectively as the introductory segment of your story. As an emphatic and/or descriptive scene meant to convey a character's emotions and experiences, this works extremely well. The only thing I would recommend would be a little exposition to ease the reader into the world of your Prelate and her ‘relic.’ Then again, you may have a deliberate reason for throwing us right into the thick of things (which would void the importance of most of my comments).


Inkwell
------------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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QuantumLogic
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quote:
It was cool, and enigmatically smooth, unquestionably beyond the capacity of humans or pures to create.
I don't know when this takes place, but I do know that humans can create things that have much less than the minimum roughness that humans can detect. In other words, it can't be detectably smooth enough (by human senses) to be beyond the capacity of humans to create.

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rstone72
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Thanks to everyone for their comments - been out of town or would have responded earlier. This is an opener, which is admittedly not very action-y. It does lead quickly into more context re: the world and this character's identity (on the next page). I think I was trying to do a bit of in media res focused on these weird orbs (that are both religious icons and ancient tech) but perhaps it's too much media and not enough res. Thanks again for all the help.

By the way - on re-reading after hearing the feedback - "heavy bones" is pretty creepy!


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Survivor
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Well, I suppose that I'm glad everyone was able to guess what you needed here.

Some comments in that optimistic spirit:

I didn't have any serious problems understanding the semantics of this text. We've got a woman (presumably quite old, or at least not youthful) invoking the powers of an archane crystal ball to perform some task. This involves mystically entering the "Orb" with her "consciousness".

I felt that it was clear what you meant by "as if for the first time; as she did every time." On the other hand, the phrasing did seem a bit clumsy somehow.

The "heavy bones" seemed clear enough to me, they refer to a woman whose bone structures show clearly through her flesh, either because she is unusually gaunt or has very large and prominant bones. But it was strange that you would specify the nape of her neck as the place where her underlying bone structure would be particularly evident. I would think that the locks at her temples framing facial/collar bones would make more sense than hairs from the nape of her neck being pulled back to reveal what must presumably be her cervical vertabrae producing a line of bumps on the back of her neck.

Overall, I think that I agree most with Inkwell's comments, though I felt that you did a good job of immersing me in Kirimia's identity. Whether this is a good starting point really depends on whether and how Kirimia's character and this particular use of the Orb are going to be important to the story. I do not recommend exposition without having seen any of the rest of your story, nor having any idea what of its particulars beyond this text fragment.

And for the record, if an object is so smooth as to be actually frictionless, it would unquestionably be the case that humans could not have created it and that any human touching it could easily sense this. Very few humans have touched solid objects with frictionless surfaces (though some have experienced the sensation by touching phenomena which have a similar feel), so your readers might not be familiar with the fact that there is a sensation which they have never experienced because they haven't touched anything far smoother what could be created by humans, so you might want to describe the sensation in terms that make it imaginable to those who have never felt it.

If that's all you wanted, then you are quite welcome to it and to this forum. And if you want more than that, feel free to ask. If it is a genuine medical emergency you don't even have to be particularly polite in making your request.


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QuantumLogic
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quote:
if an object is so smooth as to be actually frictionless...
Being perfectly smooth will not cause an object to be frictionless. Friction is caused by molecular interactions. There are cases where it's caused by roughness, but that is rarely the primary cause, except in the sense that a rough thing has more surface area, and therefore more potential for molecular interactions.

Humans can make things that are so smooth that no one could detect any roughness without very sensitive instruments. The gyroscopes on "gravity probe B" (I think that's what it's called) are no more than a few nanometers from being perfectly spherical at any point. I don't know what the minimum-sized irregularities are that humans can detect, but I do know that it's several orders of magnitude larger than a nanometer.


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One nanometer is several atomic diameters. Naturally there are limits to how smooth materials made of most naturally occuring substances can be, but if you make a solid surface really smooth on the picometer scale then friction as humans understand it essentially disappears.
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NewsBys
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Wouldn't a truly frictionless item be really hard to hold? Wouldn't it slip out of your hands?

[This message has been edited by NewsBys (edited December 14, 2004).]


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Which is why this orb is kept in a stand in a special chamber, and Kirimia only caresses it rather than trying to pick it up. That said, I'm not sure that rstone meant it was frictionless, I was just saying that he needed to describe just what sort of uncanny smoothness he meant when he said this thing was uncannily smooth. A surface geometry that was smooth at the picometer scale is one type of uncanny smoothness that a human could easily feel. Or it might be something that acted slightly liquid, or it might mean that it was velvety to the touch despite being made of crystal.

The picolevel smoothness and resulting frictionlessness were just what the passage happened to evoke in my mind, they aren't actually declared in the text.


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yanos
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Why would it be hard to hold? Just cup your hand. Even stroking it would not move it.
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QuantumLogic
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quote:
if you make a solid surface really smooth on the picometer scale then friction as humans understand it essentially disappears
If you make it smooth by messing with the shapes of the atoms, then you're getting into imaginary science, so you can do whatever you want. However, assuming you leave the atoms intact, making an object smooth will not make it frictionless. Friction is caused by the fact that the atoms in your hand attract the atoms in the object via intermolecular bonds. When a molecule in your hand is on one side of an atom or molecule in the object, it pulls it one way; then when it moves to the other side, it pulls the other way. This causes the atom/molecule to jiggle, turning some of the kinetic energy of your hand into heat.

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Well, the text as written specifies that this is a level of smoothness that is "unquestionably beyond the capacity of humans or pures to create."

So something beyond human science definitely is being implied here.

For the record, holding a frictionless orb in your cupped hand isn't as easy as you seem to think. Well, if it's smaller than about two inches in diameter it isn't so difficult to hold. I suppose that's another thing that the text should address, how big is this Orb?


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