The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:31 am

Haven't read any more yet, just responding to some of the things you said:

You're 100% right about your first point: slowness or spaced-out events can be necessary to build mood or suspense in a story, which after all isn't an academic article that needs to cram information into every word. Very good point. (Makes me think I should write a Creative Pen column about pacing at some point... oh well.)

Regarding Chico: Graham once told me that the most well-rounded characters are the ones that can't be easily defined (just like real people), so I think it's a good sign if his character is taking a while to develop. Of course having a character that's completely undefined isn't good either, but that's obviously not the case here.
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:23 pm

Comments on "The Third Day":

The interactions between the gang continue being enjoyable. Long description of a friendly football game -- found the Brazilian. :D Jokes aside, it's well written.

The whole conversation between Rita and Carol is very well-paced, coming as a bit of a climax to the build-up of the hints about Carol's power and the interaction between the two girls, and it has some very fine writing in some of the dialogue. I liked the bit about how Rita's entire world-view was collapsing from getting proof of telepathy: it's very realistic. Some of Carol's narration can be a bit verbose, but that might just be my personal taste.

Writing telepathy (or any kind of unusual sense) isn't easy, but I don't see any effort here. The way Carol proves her ability to Rita is convincing. (And the toy dog is cute.) I know the phrase "magical realism" gets thrown around a lot, especially for writing from South America, but I feel like you've done a good job using all the slower, character-interaction parts to build up the mundane side of the story and then meshing the supernatural part with it so well that it feels realistic, too.

You're also giving Rita a ton of characterisation in this scene, without it feeling forced. I love the feeling of relief that Carol feels after finally getting to tell her secret to someone.

"But I couldn’t accept the idea that they were my true friends without knowing what—or who I was." I like this sentence, but I think it could be rewritten to make it clearer that the subject of "without knowing" is the friends (reading it first time, I thought it said that Carol didn't know what she herself was). Maybe something like "that they were my true friends if they didn't know what" etc.

The last paragraph of the chapter is nicely creepy, but it feels a little bit rushed, as if it's there to bring the ants storyline back into focus. Great way to introduce the symbol, though, and like I said, it has a great mood to it.

Will be back when I've read more.
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


- The Stupendium, "Shelter from the Storm"
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by SirMustapha » Sun Dec 20, 2020 4:50 pm

I'm glad that day 3 worked out, since it's such a pivotal moment in the story, and hinges mostly on the characterisation of the two girls. I'm very much convinced that Rita and Carol are really the central characters of the story, and this scene is especially important. I confess, with embarrassment, that I never read any of the South-American magical realists (well, I did read The Centaur in the Garden by Moacyr Scliar, but I disliked it intensely...), but the comparison makes sense, even if I never aimed at that specifically.

I assumed the ambiguous phrase was just a translation error, but the original phrase was wonky too, so I fixed both. I'll also take a careful look at the nitpicks you sent me. Might be a good way to get me in a better mood to write.

For sure, there'll be a lot of trimming and editing to do in this story, in terms of pacing and mood. I think you already know that the drawing is a fundamental plot point, so there needs to be some weight to it. But overall, the chapter seems to have worked well enough. :) Thank you, Chris!
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Wed Jan 06, 2021 11:11 pm

Day 4:

Nice conversation between Carol, Rita and Eduardo. A lot of good lines, and a nice bit of tension when Carol accidentally reveals information she shouldn't know.

Her unease at realising that Eduardo is attracted to her is a *little* bit cliché, but also realistic. I can see that she would feel unable to be in a relationship to him due to her "weirdness," but I guess I see it as cliché because as plot elements go, "character feels unworthy of someone who's interested in them" is almost on the same level as "beautiful girl doesn't realise she's beautiful" in terms of being commonly used. But I talk a lot about a very minor issue here; I do find it realistic that she would recoil from Eduardo's interest, even though he's a good guy.

I like the conversation about being misfits: it's sympathetic, and we get to see a bit of interaction between Rita and Ralf, which made me realise that there hasn't actually been a lot of conversation between the two siblings. Not saying that's a bad or unrealistic thing: whenever there is a large group of people, conversations will necessarily play out in certain patterns, and not everyone will get equal amounts of time. But I do enjoy seeing the sibling dynamic between them: casual, but with a foundation of self-evident affection. Nice to see a bit of Ralf's personality, as well.

Interesting that you bring in the theme of secrecy among the group of teens. I don't know whether you did it consciously, but it kind of mirrors Carol's concerns with being unable to have normal friendships with people due to her secret. Generally some good lines from Daniel.

"doing something that we can't know" feels a little bit weirdly written. Maybe change to "that we're not allowed to know" or similar.

I really like the pacing of the plot in this chapter. It's subtle, but it couldn't be done better.

I'll send you the grammar issues separately.
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by SirMustapha » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:21 pm

Thanks once again, Chris! I feel right now you're reading faster than I'm working on this novel. ;D

It's pretty annoying when stories kinda fall into those cliches when the narrative is (at least in my opinion) self-justified. I feel like it's the fault of other writers for being so shallow in their portrayal of feelings and relationships. Of course the "girl feels unworthy of being loved" is an easy way to appeal to the fantasies of women with low self-esteem, while I'm more interested in the feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness as a thing that actually happens and that really, genuinely sucks. Another thing I'm hoping is that the story doesn't get into the "twoo wuv" territory (well, maybe with one possible exception later on). The relationships in this story aren't idealised; these kids become infatuated because they're teenagers, and that's it. It's quite unromantic, but that's what I'm interested in. (incidentally, I did try to deconstruct the "girl doesn't realise she's beautiful", with the two older girls being quite aware of their physical attributes, and Rita growing to confront her asexual upbringing later on)

I didn't realise the lack of interaction between Rita and Ralf, though it does make sense for them, since they wouldn't want to interact very much during this time. This changes a bit later on, as I do want to get into the tension between them and the family related anxiety.

The theme of secrecy wasn't intended as parallel with Carol's situation (unconscious, maybe? I really don't know), and it's more a direct consequence of the clash between the teens being older and more streetwise and the siblings being younger and far less mature (I'm hoping to make it clear in the story that Rita is a very sheltered girl). I guess teenagers in general just have lots of reasons to be secretive? ;D

I'm glad the pacing worked well, too; though I'm worried now, because day five is long, and it's still mostly character development (though it was still enjoyable to write, and I really like that chapter).
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:53 pm

Well, writing is hard. Reading is... somewhat less hard.
SirMustapha wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:21 pm It's pretty annoying when stories kinda fall into those cliches when the narrative is (at least in my opinion) self-justified. I feel like it's the fault of other writers for being so shallow in their portrayal of feelings and relationships. Of course the "girl feels unworthy of being loved" is an easy way to appeal to the fantasies of women with low self-esteem, while I'm more interested in the feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness as a thing that actually happens and that really, genuinely sucks.
Agree 100%, and I am of course hampered by the fact that I don't have the entire story at present, so I don't know what you'll do with these tropes later on (what you said in this post sounds interesting to me). Again, like I said, "girl feels unworthy of being loved" may be a cliché, but it's also something that genuinely happens, so I shouldn't jump on the "oh, it's a cliché" explanation immediately.

Rita's sheltered nature comes through well.

Believe me, I'm looking forward to day 5. *keeps reading*
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:17 pm

I'd just like to note that I'm probably going to change a small plot point that happens at the very end of Day 5, so, if you happen to get there before I change it, I ask you to ignore it. I can't make any promises of when I'll upload the changed version, though.
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:19 pm

Thanks for the heads-up. No, I'm just about 1/3 into Day 5 at present.
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:59 pm

Have read up to p. 69:

The scene with Carol, and then Ralf and Rita, going to the dunes has excellent atmosphere: a bit creepy, but low-key. I know you said this chapter is "mostly character development," but this scene is good suspense, without being too exaggerated. Simply well-written; I can't think of a way to make it better. I feel like it comes at a good place in the plot, too, introducing some suspense before the scene at the house.

Carol showing up at Eduardo's house is good as well. Eduardo welcoming her instantly shows how relaxed the atmosphere is, and sets up for her overcoming her anxiety and joining them. As someone who isn't a fan of social occasions, I can relate a lot to Carol here.

The writing and character development continue very good. I have no issues with anything (other than a couple of technical ones below); am looking forward to continuing reading.


Language nitpicks:

Again, "worried with" isn't a phrase you'd see in English; that should be "worried about."

"Rita felt something hard on the ground" is a bit inaccurate, since she's digging. "in the ground" would be better here.

"pointing at the two girls with his eyes" is an odd phrasing; English doesn't use "point" like that.

"bothered with a new [...] presence" should be "by".
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by SirMustapha » Wed Jan 13, 2021 1:02 pm

So I got around to making the changes in day five I talked about, and just uploaded the new version. Also, as a bonus, there's a dangling bit of day 6 (no, not that Day6) that I decided to leave in. I'll put a brief explanation of the change in spoiler tags.
Spoiler
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Wed Jan 13, 2021 8:04 pm

OK, that is really cool. I didn't think that story element (what I've seen of it) was bad, but I agree that your change is an improvement.

Also, for the record, I respect you way too much to assume that
Spoiler
Thanks for the heads-up.
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:20 pm

Up to p. 79:

The scene of the gang and Carol going to town is plain enjoyable, and I think it's because Carol's feeling such joy in fitting in and interacting with her new friends. I still enjoy her narrative voice: it's very varied and personal. The scene where she's looking at the ice creams in parlour feels so vivid, for some reason. I enjoy the gang telling stories: it's almost as good as being there listening to them.

I'm just gonna say, I love "the car stereo politely swallowed the CD." Oh, and finally an explanation for Eduardo's nickname. Can't say I'm all that surprised. :)

"felt a kind of pleasure with the situation" is a bit weird in English, though as usual, that may be intentional. If not, I'd change it to "at the situation."

“She listens to rap,” Eduardo said, “and gets those modern ideas.” This line made me actually LOL.

I haven't finished their long conversation about more serious topics, but it's stuff that's always going to be relevant, and the debate about religion and proof is very well-written and cogent.

Not many general comments today. I'm enjoying it, and look forward to reading more.


Spelling/grammar:

"thank his compliment" would be better as "thank him for his compliment" (unless you intended for it to sound slightly compressed).

"with the tone of who won’t take no for an answer" should be "of someone who" etc.

On p. 77, it should say "don't believe in Him" when talking about God, not "don't believe Him".

typo: "What different would it make?"
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:55 pm

So, I've now uploaded chapter 6, both the translation and the original Portuguese version. I had been lying on it for too long, so I just thought I'd put it up.

It's funny how I feel nervous whenever I see you've made a post on this story, because I keep expecting very valid, strong criticism, and then you say nice things about it and I get that "nooo, I don't deserve this!" feeling. This is even more so in the scene you're in, which is carried entirely by dialogue and character interactions that don't advance the main plot. Either way, I'll make sure to fix the mistakes you pointed out in the next version.

I'm very close to reaching the end of the story, and even though there are minor fixes and alterations I still have to do, I'm getting really, really sad that I'm saying goodbye to these characters (temporarily, at least). I'm hoping the final chapter will be really sad, because, well, screw it, if I'm so affected by this, I want readers to be affected as well.
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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:44 pm

Congratulations to getting near the end! And I absolutely get that feeling.

Looking forward to reading the new chapter.
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


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Re: The Formicide Gang [work in progress]: the bullshit thread

Post by c_nordlander » Sat Feb 27, 2021 9:31 pm

Up to p. 84:

I get quite a good feel for what the arcade is like (I've had that overstimulated feeling in crowded spaces before). The following scene of Eduardo and Carol talking is well-written. I can relate to the situation of a person perpetually trying to second-guess whether the other is trying to politely leave the situation. Yeah, makes me cringe. At least Carol always knows what the other person is thinking. :)

Eduardo continues being a very likable guy. Just nice, in the best sense of the word.

I like Carol's slight bit of shock at the idea of wearing jewellery. It's a small touch, but a nice insight in her character.

Hope to read more soon.


Technical problems:

"believe the dragon" should be "believe in"

"Purchased a few coins" at the arcade sounds a bit odd. I'd change it to either "tokens" (if the arcade uses specialised tokens for the machines) or "exchanged their money for a few coins"/"broke up their money for some coins" or the like. Or, you know, maybe I'm just wrong.

"in the airhockey table" should be "at"

Not really incorrect, but "lose each other from sight" is a bit bureaucratic-sounding. "Lose sight of each other" would be more casual.

"with a disinterest of who had": in English, you'd say "someone who had" etc.
No gold or silver, coal's the only thing of worth to me
The only precious metal to our name would be the mercury.


- The Stupendium, "Shelter from the Storm"
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