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The Decadent Prince

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Old 01-10-2012, 02:58 AM
Arin Lee (Offline)
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Default The Decadent Prince


The first chapter of the novel I'm currently working on. It's a children's/teen fantasy. I've done a few revisions but as always I'm looking for opinions and different perspectives on it.
Be as harsh as you like.

~
1. Butterflies

All around it was black, punctuated only by her footfalls. As each step landed the rock grew, like grey clouds blooming from nothing, solidifying, becoming real. Each was an island in the dark, a meteor that revealed the path she took. Lightning shot across the sky, sometimes darting like the quick-flash strike of a heron or a snatching hand. Other times it forked so much it was like a web, a net to snare her for a fraction of a second before it faded and fled from her. Soundless, there was no thunder.
She walked into the maelstrom trailing meteors, the lightning shot up from beneath her, as the ground did not exist yet, and struck where she had trod. The rock exploded behind her, the fragments torn apart transforming, becoming butterflies that lit the darkness with every hue of the dust from their wings.
The meteors and butterflies trailed in her wake, expanding out into the infinite darkness. Where the lightning lashed out net-like and the butterflies were struck, they exploded in a shower of luminescent powder and transformed once more. Fish with glittering scales and transparent fins thrashed in their place, the light-net was torn apart and they darted out.
By the light of fish scales and powdered wings, trailing meteors, she finally stood.
The thunder boomed.
The trail of meteors drifted behind her until they were all transformed into butterflies, into fish that bloomed out from where she was, where the ground beneath her feet was growing, no longer meteoric. The ground was formed, up and down defined by her presence.
Her being defined the laws of the dark place.
She chose to fill it with light.
Bright green stalks of fresh grass grew beneath her bare feet, tickling between her toes which she wriggled as she inspected them.
It was always like this at first.
The sensation of walking in darkness they finally stopping, realising there was nowhere to go. Or rather, as she didn’t know where she was, what was around her, there was little point in continuing from nothing, to nothing.
So she took stock.
The ground, expanding beneath her feet was always where she began and inevitably it would stretch out further behind her than in front, so she would look back at where she had been. The meteors of her first steps were long gone so she couldn’t see far, but she took some comfort in the distance she could see, enjoyed watching plants grow in the tiny landscape. So gravity was further enforced by her growing awareness of the ground beneath her, the sky above. Her feet settled more firmly on the grass as, framed by the sprouting foliage she watched the butterflies and fish of her first unconscious thoughts drift up into the black sky.
She never knew where they came from and was never aware of their creation, just that they didn’t surprise her when she saw them, no matter what form they took.
Now she knew where she was, the rest was easy.
She smiled at her unravelling thoughts, her excitement and impatience getting the better of her before she finally stretched out her hands, palms to the ground then lifted them, the image clear in her mind.
Her arms strained as the thought first formed but quickly found the pressure easing, she lifted her arms high, palms turning up and the building exploded out of the ground.
It was a soft yellow, almost white, lit by an unseen sun like the rest of her world in the darkness. She watched it, arms raised, as it climbed higher and higher into the black sky, butterflies and fish darting to get out of its way. She stopped it when her mind wandered with only half of the windows fully formed, the rest were mismatched shapes with no organised arrangement that would suggest any practical flooring inside. A fish pecked at one triangular hole and finding the opening without glass it wriggled through it.
The ground around rushed out to accommodate her, the plants rushing to catch up but never establishing themselves as well as the thick growth around the base of her first building as she grew more comfortable in the world she was creating.
Oases sprung up when her mind turned to them and they bloomed almost instantly. Other times the streets and pavements she mapped out were lined with just grass, the buildings of her city that stood alongside them sporting hanging baskets and window boxes to add splashes of colour here and there, where her mind didn’t linger on architectural details that usually excited her more than the plants.
The buildings she grew were like plants themselves. Where she wasn’t constrained by linear thoughts of order and uniformity, as she sometimes was, evidenced by streets of identical houses with neat lawns and privet hedges, she created all manner of structures.
Soon her world was full of turreted fairy tale castles alongside simple barbershops with their red and white spinning decals, grassy domes of subterranean dwellings, dotted with glassy windows that reflected the phantom sun stood alongside columned monuments and grand museums full of all her stray thoughts.
Her world was an eclectic city, not surprising given where she lived, though Decadence the 9th had yet to break the laws of physics in its design of some buildings.
Into each house she put a thought, whether she knew it or not. Some buildings were out of sight, lost down stretches of half-light alleyways even she didn’t know where there. Those dwellings were always grey or muted in colour, their forms indistinct and sometimes even changing without apparent reason. They housed her secret thoughts. Ones she didn’t know she had, ones yet to be realised.
They were there alongside or maybe hidden by her current thoughts and feelings, they always were in some form.
Everything was around her, never the same twice but always familiar to her.
It always felt like home in the mindscape.
Now she knew where she had been and now she had formed her world she walked once more. The lightning had long since died, forced back by the force of her creation. Her footfalls made the sounds she expected to hear of them though when she looked down and found her feet still bare she was caught by surprise.
A few gables and pediments lifted from the surrounding buildings, warping their shape. The grass shook as if blown by an erratic wind and yellowed.
This happened in only a few seconds and as she ordered her thoughts in a few more seconds, everything was as it was.
Most people forget themselves in the mindscape since everything around them is also technically them too, it was all too easy to forget to create a physical body. And if by chance they were like her, with a fairly good grasp of their own existence, at least enough to form feet and legs when she looked down; it was another matter entirely to think of putting clothes on.
She was simultaneously amused and embarrassed.
Signposts bent and trashcans lifted into the air at the flash-panic of being seen. They straightened and returned to the ground with the comforting thought of where she was and that she was inevitably and utterly alone.
The thought of loneliness was just as brief as a bulb exploding in a traffic light before the cracked coloured lens reassembled midair and the red light flicked back on.
She wasn’t even aware of it as she turned her mind to dressing herself.
When you can wear anything you can think of, it’s harder to dress yourself than you would think especially if you want to be comfortable. You can only go so far before even your own mind won’t believe that outfit is agreeable, let alone acceptable.
She focused a bit too much to begin with, her mind tunnelling so she saw only the details. She alternated between white and black, ruffled frills and intricate lacework, efficiently plain and heavily patterned. When a daring thought crossed her mind she experimented with “the bare minimum” then compensated by trying out as many layers as she could manage. She’d heard it was always good to think in terms of layers; too hot you take some off, too cold you put some on. That might have been for arctic exploration though.
In the end she settled for her old school uniform, reflecting that she hadn’t had to wear it for some time and that soon she’d be wearing it for the last time. It seemed to fit the moment.
She stood in a paved square in the heart of her city wearing clothes she was only now really beginning to appreciate while multi coloured butterflies and fish swarmed and swam above her against the black sky.
Though the lightning had gone she felt it inside her.
She felt electric.
Her skin prickled and her hands shook so intensely that she could barely see them do so. She tried to but her vision was hardly focused enough to be certain. If she didn’t feel it so strongly she wouldn’t have thought anything of it.
Maybe the uniform was a bad idea.
But then that was why she was here.
Maybe that even explained the butterflies and the fish, she thought, as she watched them flutter and swim above her city.
Her hand went to her tie, as it always did when she was nervous and needed reassurance, something to hold on to; she hadn’t realised how much she’d missed that simple movement or that she’d ever done it.
She’d come to relax but she was wondering if she ever could, even here.
She took a deep breath, meant to let it out slowly but let it rush out with a shake of her head.
How could she think to ever escape nerves by coming to the mindscape? When everything here was a reflection of her. She wondered if everyone found that by trying to run away they found themselves heading for the thing they were trying to escape.
The butterflies danced with crazed dips and dives as she let out a sharp laugh, the fish darted around lampposts and in and out of open windows.
Nerves were normal.
The thought realised as a slab in the centre of the square. It raised itself like a step to nowhere and she stepped on.
She needed more room around her so the world expanded to accommodate her, everything moving out but maintaining its original form, scaling imperceptibly to fit. She stood on the raised step in her old school uniform, donned in her mind as it soon would be in her physical reality. She was going to be ready for the Expo, nerves or not, she thought.
The zigzag parquet bricks of the square rose and fell in a wave that rippled out from the centre step where she stood as a thought occurred.
She hadn’t done her hair.
All that time on her clothes and she’d forgotten her hair.
Only now could she feel it tickling at her ears and jaw line not quite long enough to rest on her shoulders but hovering above it, loose and uncut. The thin strands of her fringe shifted and dipped over her eyes, she didn’t need to think of the motion that would bring her hand up to swipe them clear. She may not have even done it with the hand she’d created to be her physical presence in her world. She didn’t really need to.
She wanted to feel her fingers through her hair though, running through light brown hair that was nothing special until she’d also run through the ritual.
It was easier in the mindscape than in reality.
Less hair gel required.
She put both hands to cup around the sides of her neck, meeting at the back, fingers spread to catch and gather any stray strands. Her little fingers ran lightly over her temples and traced around the tops of her ears as she gathered her hair at the base of her skull.
Much easier here.
In one swoop she lifted her hair off the back of her neck and pointed it, bringing her hands together high above her head to frame the flame of her hair. With an almost dismissive wave she coloured the underside red.
The ritual of her hair was so innate once she’d begun she barely needed to think of it. Before her hair was completed she’d raised the step ten feet higher and was still climbing.
Now she knew where she was, who she was, she’d ride on her inevitable nerves. She ascended on a pillar through circling butterflies and fish up into an unknown black sky.
She was filled with trepidation and excitement.
But that was normal.
Everyone told her that.
She told it herself.
She looked down at her world in the mindscape, saw herself from a distance.
She was Chiara Alstern.
And she would conquer the Career Expo.
~

Also if anyone knows anything about formatting in Writer'sBeat, could you tell me how to indent the first line of a paragraph, that would be great. I played with indents etc to make it easier to read but I'd really like to preserve the format of the original word doc. Thanks.

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Old 01-11-2012, 09:28 AM
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"The buildings she grew were like plants themselves. Where she wasn’t constrained by linear thoughts of order and uniformity, as she sometimes was, evidenced by streets of identical houses with neat lawns and privet hedges, she created all manner of structures."

"everything moving out but maintaining its original form, scaling imperceptibly to fit."

What age group are you writing this for again? This seems a little advanced for a children's book, or even a teen book. If this were at the store, I wouldn't expect it in the young adult section. It is really good though. It is very abstract. It is a little slow at first, and there were a few times where I didn't know what was going on, but I think it is supposed to be that way.
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:23 PM
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I found this a little hard to understand. Is the girl some kind of a god? or is she imagining all this in her mindscape place?
If the book is aimed at teenagers I think you should describe the characters personality a bit more than to leave it to the end.
The descriptions of what's happening around the character were good though.
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Old 01-11-2012, 02:46 PM
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Arin Lee, my general impression of this is that it's cumbersome to read. It seems extremely complex and hard to keep up with. If you could find a way to incorporate dialogue, even her own thoughs, it could make the going easier.

It's always easy to assume the reader is working on the same thought line as the writer, though the truth is it takes some careful reader herding to keep them pointed in the direction you want.

You are a talented writer. Keep thumping the keys.

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Old 01-11-2012, 02:47 PM
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oops
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Last edited by Waterpoor; 01-11-2012 at 02:49 PM..
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Old 01-12-2012, 12:52 AM
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Ooh, this is exactly what I need.
I feared that this chapter would be too abstract and vague. Nice to have it confirmed and that I need more about Chiara herself threaded through it all.

@grossz are the bits you quoted the sections you were most confused by or bits that seem too advanced?

@blinky I left it vague on purpose in the hopes of creating a hook to draw people in, was it too vague that it put you off instead? The mindscape like a virtual reality space she goes to to relax/meditate/order her thoughts. It's elaborated on more in the next chapter as she comes out of it but do you think it would benefit further mention in this chapter to keep readers engaged?

@waterpoor Thanks for the "herding" tip. Chapter structure and flow is always something I'm aware of but never sure if it's going well, to have it pointed out when it's not is very helpful, much appreciated.

Thanks for the comments they've helped a lot.

Last edited by Arin Lee; 01-12-2012 at 03:07 AM..
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Old 01-12-2012, 05:13 AM
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Hi Arin Lee, I think it was good to have it vague in the first three paragraphs and stuff like that does draw the reader in but I think too much of it was a bit confusing.
The mindscape might need a little more information but - like you said - you can go into further detail with it in the next chapter once you have the reader hooked.
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Old 01-12-2012, 08:19 AM
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Those were two of the things I thought to be more advanced. The overall language is pretty advanced but those are two things that stuck out to me the most as I was reading. That's not to say that it's not good. Rather, it is TOO good for the audience you are targeting. It may also be me simply underestimating young readers.
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Old 01-12-2012, 08:59 AM
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As a young adult fantasy this plot will interest young readers. You write beautifully, but even I had to re-read a few lines because they were a bit long and hard to follow. For young adult readers the ease of reading a piece is a deal breaker in terms of their judgment of the book.

As a middle school teacher (my civilian job), I work with 6-9 graders who love to read young adult fiction (especially fantasy). I think grossz is absolutely correct that the language/writing is too advanced for your target audience.

To reach the teen audience you might consider (1) taking your long sentences and paring them down into shorter sentences. (2) evaluating your vocabulary to make sure that there are not too many unfamiliar words. Any teen will give up reading a book if every paragraph contains another word they do not know.

Example:
Soon her world was full of turreted fairy tale castles alongside simple barbershops with their red and white spinning decals, grassy domes of subterranean dwellings, dotted with glassy windows that reflected the phantom sun stood alongside columned monuments and grand museums full of all her stray thoughts.

A young adult would appreciate that broken into smaller pieces and would appreciate some of the higher level words being replaced with words they understand. All of the words in black would confuse most 13/14 years old that I know, with the exception of a few that read very well. I do not want to over-edit anyone's work, but let me know if you would like the point of view of someone who works with teens in your target audience.
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Old 01-12-2012, 09:28 AM
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Being a kid/teen, i think i can give some advice that other kids/teens might give.
The beginning was slow, and a tad confusing, and i think the younger a kid is, the slower and more confusing it can get. Even with the action and surprise the story gives, it still sort of lags on. A good start might be to shorten the papragraphs or split the ones you have into shorter paragraphs, but that might change the story in other ways, too.
Many of the words used are a big reason why it's slow and.or confusing. Examples are "turreted", "constrained", "sensation", "arrangement", "intricate", and "alternated". Although the words are pretty common, many kids don't quite understand them very well. Also, The words are long, having many letters and syllables. When reading those words, teens' and kids' eyes tend to veer off the page and skip the sentence, especially when so many of those words are used in a single paragraph.
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:45 AM
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@grossz and blinky; thanks for the clarifications, they're inspiring more changes to the ones I've already made.

@writetime and tamara8flo; it's so good to have previous comments supported and built on by both of you since you come from very different points of view (ones that are hugely valuable for me too).

I think i took the advice not to write down to kids a little too seriously. The funniest thing is that I pointed out this exact problem in someone else's work. It's easy to see things in others writing and not your own. That's why I really appreciate your feedback.
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Old 01-17-2012, 07:48 AM
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I write for a kids' magazine, and I agree with your last comment--do NOT write down for kids. On the other hand, if you use a word that is above them, make it easy to figure out from the context of the rest of the sentence. This way they actually learn new words but don't put the book down in bewilderment.

Also, definitely break things up with dialogue or thought or actions that are simpler to understand. It's a beautiful, ethereal piece--it just needs to be grounded a little bit.
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Old 01-17-2012, 08:36 AM
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Now I liked this piece. The imagery was amazing. However, I feel its too slow, crossing into the realm of purple prose. The episode of controlle explosion goes on for entirely too long, I feel
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Old 01-18-2012, 09:01 AM
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I think I've trimmed it in the right places, keeping the important bits in and building on them. Lots more voice from Chiara herself especially (maybe too much...or am I being paranoid now). Of course the new bits now may be too long and incomprehensible...
So!
Here's the rewrite, if you'll indulge me, your crit is ever craved and appreciated.

~
1. Butterflies
Chiara sat in her room, the faint glow of early dawn streaming in through half closed curtains. They were too thin to hold back the light and not quite big enough to cover the window at the foot of the bed on which she sat.

The sounds of people’s lives beginning for yet another day drifted up from the street below. A normal day for them and the biggest of Chiara’s in her life so far.

I hope I have a life worth living after today.

She shuffled to get comfortable, creasing the sheets of the bed she’d already made and remade, on the day that nothing could go wrong.

Everything has to be perfect or I’m…

No! Can’t think about it. Must relax. Must, be…me. Be yourself. That’s what they say right?

She took deep breaths as she settled, the sounds of Decadence the 9th coming to life fading as she clicked the switch on the box next to her; the dry leaf rustle of a newspaper as it left the hand of the paperboy as he peddled by, the chain of his bike whirring, the loose spokes of his wheels clacking. She barely heard the thump of the rolled paper as it hit the front door below her window as a haze of black crept into the corner of her vision.

Even the sharp sounds of her mum downstairs, up early and already fussing for her, worrying for her, faded and Chiara felt a weight lift from her. She didn’t want to think about the day to come. She just wanted to relax. To keep living her old life for as long as possible before she had to face the day and the new life it promised her.

Whatever that may be.

Chiara forced her breathing to steady, eyes fixed on the fading view of growing light straining to push through the thin fabric of the curtains. She fought the overwhelming sense of vertigo as the darkness closed in on her and she felt as though she’d fallen through the world into nothing.

The box next to her on the bed, the dampener, hummed but she didn’t hear it.

She was deaf and blind to the world.

Like everyone else did all too often, she closed herself off from Decadence the 9th and entered the mindscape.

The darkness was infinite; it went on forever.

It was always like this at first, nothing but the faintest sensation of movement. She knew she was moving but not sure where or even how. Her mind was sluggish; slow to adjust to the mindscape and the world it showed her. As she woke up to it she became more aware of walking, one foot in front of the other and the feel of the ground beneath her feet. She walked on, step after step into the black. Though there was nothing in front of her to suggest she wouldn’t fall she stepped, trusting the ground to be there.

It always was for her. She considered herself a grounded person.

Should I try to float or fly?

A thought in the mindscape was instant, faster than putting it into words they were out before you knew it.

She felt a sickening lurch, like stepping off a stair when you thought you were at the bottom. Lightning shot across the black, from every direction, like a web or a net to snare her for one brief moment before it faded. It fled from her as she found the ground.

The mindscape always goes a bit weird if I try that. Fun sometimes but not what I need today. Today I need…What?

The black was punctuated only by her footfalls. As she awakened to the world of the mindscape sight and sound returned to her. As each step landed the rock grew, like grey clouds blooming from nothing, solidifying, becoming real. Each was an island in the dark, a meteor that revealed the path she took. Lightning grew more frequent as her mind raced, more so than on any other day she visited. She wasn’t worried about being struck.

I’ve got a lot on my mind today.

A flash, shot across the sky, darting like the quick-flash strike of a heron or a snatching hand.

She walked into the maelstrom trailing meteors.

The lightning shot up from beneath her, as the ground did not fully exist yet, and struck where she had trod. The rock exploded behind her, the fragments torn apart transforming, becoming butterflies that lit the darkness with every hue of the dust from their wings.

The meteors and butterflies trailed in her wake, expanding out into the infinite darkness. Where the lightning lashed out net-like and the butterflies were struck, they exploded in a shower of luminescent powder and transformed once more. Fish with glittering scales and transparent fins thrashed in their place, the light-net was torn apart and they darted out.

By the light of fish scales and powdered wings, trailing meteors, she finally stood.

The sensation of walking in darkness finally stopped as she realised there was nowhere to go. Or rather, as she didn’t know where she was, there was little point in continuing from nothing, to nothing.

The trail of meteors drifted behind her until they were all transformed into butterflies, into fish that bloomed out from where she was, where the ground beneath her feet was growing, no longer meteoric. The ground was formed, up and down defined by her presence.

Her being defined the laws of the dark place.

That was what the mindscape was for: a place for everyone, whatever they wanted it to be.

Some chose just to walk, sit or stand in the dark while their lives, memories and thoughts played out to them around them, a movie theatre where the film keeps changing with a single thought. Or an editing room to order your thoughts.

Chiara chose to fill hers with a world of her imagining.

Bright green stalks of fresh grass grew beneath her bare feet, tickling between her toes which she wriggled as she inspected them.

The grass always comes first, even though I live in one of the most built up districts of Decadence. I wonder why but I never really find the answer. I suppose it doesn’t matter too much to me or I’d have had it sorted out long ago.

She looked back to where she had entered the mindscape. The meteors of her first steps were long gone so she couldn’t see far, but she took some comfort in the distance she could see, where the ground continued to grow around her. The tiny landscape sprouted with grass and miniature plants.

Gravity pushed on her, further enforced by her growing awareness of the ground beneath her, the sky above. Her feet settled more firmly on the grass as, framed by the sprouting foliage she watched the butterflies and fish of her first unconscious thoughts drift up into the black sky.

She never knew where they came from and was never aware of their creation, just that they didn’t surprise her when she saw them, no matter what form they took.
Now she knew where she was, the rest was easy.

She smiled at her unravelling thoughts, her excitement and impatience getting the better of her before she finally stretched out her hands, palms to the ground then lifted them, the image clear in her mind.

Should I be doing this? At this time shouldn’t I be preparing or something?

As the doubt flickered through her mind the butterflies and fish jigged frantically.

No! No questions. Just…create.

Her arms strained as the thought first formed but as the image in her mind cleared the pressure she felt knot in the centre of her body eased. She lifted her arms high, palms turning up and the building exploded out of the ground.

It was a soft yellow, almost white, lit by an unseen sun like the rest of her world in the darkness. She watched it, arms raised, as it climbed higher and higher into the black sky, butterflies and fish darting to get out of its way. She stopped it when her mind wandered with only half of the windows fully formed, the rest were mismatched shapes with no organised arrangement that would suggest any practical flooring inside. A fish pecked at one triangular hole and finding the opening without glass it wriggled through it.

The ground rushed out, spreading to make room for more of her creations, the plants rushing to catch up but never developing as the thick growth at her feet.

Oases sprung up when her mind turned to them and they bloomed almost instantly. Other times the streets and pavements she mapped out were lined with just grass, the buildings of her city that stood alongside them sporting hanging baskets and window boxes to add splashes of colour here and there in those times when her mind didn’t linger on architectural details. Details like the ones he had once pointed out to her, the little things in they’d discover in the city that would brighten their world. Even though he was gone she knew that side of him lived on in her.

The buildings she grew were like plants themselves. Where she wasn’t held back by ordinary thoughts of what a building was she created all manner of structures. Though sometimes she liked to stick to order and uniformity as seen in rows of identical houses with neat lawns and privet hedges; closer to the typical houses of Decadence but so much nicer, a fantasy nonetheless.

Soon those suburbs stood alongside stately, grand museums; fairytale castles with ivy-clad towers and grassy domes that concealed underground dwellings, dotted with glassy windows that reflected the phantom sun. Winding, rough-cobbled streets; straight, clean-tiled parades and everything in between linked the districts of her world, opening out into paved squares of columned monuments or simple grass fields.

Her world was an eclectic city; a mishmash of the things she had seen in the city where she lived. It was a strange reflection of it as seen through her eyes, though Decadence the 9th had yet to break the laws of physics in its design of some buildings.

Into each structure she put a thought, whether she knew it or not. Some buildings were out of sight, lost down stretches of half-light alleyways even she didn’t know where there. They were always grey or muted in colour, their forms indistinct and sometimes even changing without apparent reason. They housed her secret thoughts. Ones she didn’t know she had, ones yet to be realised.

They were there alongside or maybe hidden by her current thoughts and feelings, they always were in some form.

Everything was around her, never the same twice but always familiar to her.

It always felt like home in the mindscape.

Now she knew where she had been and now she had formed her world she walked once more. The lightning had long since died, beaten back by the force of her creation. Her footfalls made the sounds she expected to hear of them, but when she looked down and found her feet still bare she was caught by surprise.

A few rooftops lifted from the surrounding buildings, warping their shape. The grass shook as if blown by an erratic wind and yellowed.

This happened in only a few seconds and as she ordered her thoughts and in a few more seconds, everything was as it was.

In an ironic twist most people forget themselves in the mindscape. Spectators, those that stay in the dark, very rarely create a body for themselves. World Shapers like Chiara always got around to it when they remembered.

It was all too easy to forget to create a physical body when, technically speaking, the world around them was also them too. So why bother? Some walked about their world like a character in a first person shooter and if they were like Chiara, with a fairly good grasp of their own existence, they at least formed feet and legs when they looked down, arms and hands when they wanted to reach out and touch.

It was another matter to think of putting clothes on.

She was simultaneously amused and embarrassed.

Signposts bent and trashcans lifted into the air at the flash-panic of being seen. They straightened and returned to the ground with the comforting thought of where she was and that she was inevitably and utterly alone.

The thought of loneliness was just as brief as a bulb exploding in a traffic light before the cracked coloured lens reassembled midair and the red light flicked back on.
She wasn’t even aware of it as she turned her mind to dressing herself.

When you can wear anything you can think of, it’s harder to dress yourself than you would think, especially if you want to be comfortable. You can only go so far before even your own mind won’t believe that outfit is agreeable, let alone acceptable.

She focused too much to begin with, her mind tunnelling so she saw only the details. She alternated between white and black; ruffled frills and intricate lacework; efficiently plain and heavily patterned. When a daring thought crossed her mind she experimented with “the bare minimum” then compensated by trying out as many layers as she could manage. She’d heard it was always good to think in terms of layers; too hot you take some off, too cold you put some on. That might have been for arctic exploration though.

In the end she settled for her old school uniform, reflecting that she hadn’t had to wear it for some time and that soon she’d be wearing it for the last time. It seemed to fit the moment.

Chiara was a head to toes sort of person.

The plain, short-sleeved white shirt came first, the single row of buttons soon obscured as the navy and red striped tie appeared. She wouldn’t wear the navy v-neck jumper, it never seen to fit well under her arms and though she could change that here in the mindscape the memory of it was strong that she would struggle to do so.

I may have to wear it later, the weathers about to turn or so the reports say.

Her mum had insisted on daily news and weather checks in the week running up to this day so they could prepare.

But she didn’t want to think of that now.

Her hand went to the navy and red tie and she let it fall between her fingers, the silk smooth and cool to her touch, as the rest of her outfit formed. The legs of her navy trousers dropped down to sturdy but comfortable ankle boots over regulation navy socks with the red banding at the top. She added an inch to her heels for the hell of it, against the strict guidelines of Decadent school uniform but that was hardly the point.

She stood in a paved square that became the heart of her city, wearing clothes she was only now beginning to appreciate, while multi coloured butterflies and fish swarmed and swam above her against the black sky.

Though the lightning had gone she felt it inside her.

She felt electric.

Her skin prickled and her hands shook with the feel of excitement and fear building inside her.

Maybe the uniform was a bad idea.

But then that was why she was here.

Oh, that’s why there are butterflies? Am I really so obvious, so cliché?

She watched them flutter and swim above her and her city. There was no other way she could think of to describe how she felt. The flutter of excitement washing like waves of hot and cold water poured over her and the knot deep in the pit of her stomach that grew and wriggled like fish trying to escape a net.

She’d come to relax but she was wondering if she ever could, even here.

She took a deep breath, meant to let it out slowly but let it rush out with a shake of her head.

How could I think to escape nerves in the mindscape? When everything here was a reflection of what I am, what I’m thinking!

She took comfort that she was able to form any sort of world at all, that she had the focus when she’d turned her mind to it and hadn’t found herself distracted by her nerves; lost to panic.

If I was really a mess of nerves then this place would all be a jumble of half formed things, no, not even that; just colours and shapes.

She let out a sharp, clear laugh, just because it felt good to do so. The butterflies danced with crazed dips and dives at her renewed confidence, the fish darted around lampposts and in and out of open windows.

Maybe this day won’t be so bad. Be myself right? I’m sure I can handle anything that happens.

She wondered if everyone found that by trying to run away they found themselves heading for the thing they were trying to escape.

Nerves are normal. Everyone will be as nervous as I am now so it won’t matter. The employers expect it so they’ll take it into account, they even said as much on the news.

That thought came into existence as a slab in the centre of the square that jolted up from the rest, like a step to nowhere.

She stepped on.

The square widened, making room for what she was about to do.

She stood on the raised step in her old school uniform, donned in her mind as it soon would be in her physical reality.

I’m ready to face the day ahead, nerves or not. Bring it on Expo!

The zigzag parquet bricks of the square rose and fell in a wave that rippled out from the centre step where she stood as a thought occurred.

Idiot!

She hadn’t done her hair.

All that time on her clothes and she’d forgotten her hair.

The one thing I do every day regardless and in here I forget. Forget about a major revelation about how nerves are normal, this is the real thing the mindscape was good for. I can’t believe I forgot!

Only now could she feel it tickling at her ears and jaw line, not quite long enough to rest on her shoulders but hovering above it, loose and uncut. The thin strands of her fringe shifted over her eyes, as she brought up a hand to swipe them away as she always did without thinking. She let her hand linger a while, slow to move it away, enjoying the feeling of an un-thought-of-movement revealed, as if she had just made another discovery about herself.

It would have been easy in the mindscape to just change it with a single thought but she wanted to feel her fingers through her hair. Running them through light brown hair that was nothing special until she’d also run through the ritual she went through every day.

Even doing it “the long way” it was easier in the mindscape than in reality.

Less hair gel required for one thing.

She put both hands to cup around the sides of her neck, meeting at the back, fingers spread to catch and gather any stray strands. Her little fingers ran lightly over her temples and traced around the tops of her ears as she gathered her hair at the base of her skull. In one swoop she lifted her hair off the back of her neck and pointed it, bringing her hands together high above her head to frame the flame of her hair.

With an almost dismissive wave she coloured the underside red another touch of rebellion to add to the inch on her heels.

The ritual of her hair was so innate that once she’d begun she barely had to think of it, to the extent that she’d been able to raise the step she’d been standing on ten feet higher at the same time.

She kept going.

Now she knew where she was and who she was, she’d ride on her inevitable nerves. She ascended on a pillar through circling butterflies and fish up into an unknown black sky.

She was filled with trepidation and excitement.

But that was normal.

Everyone told her that.

She told it herself.

She looked down at her world in the mindscape, saw herself from a distance.

She was Chiara Alstern.

And she would conquer the Career Expo.
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  #15  
Old 01-18-2012, 05:11 PM
somesh (Offline)
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that's not what I meant. The first few paragraphs are just fine.
All around it was black, punctuated only by her footfalls. As each step landed the rock grew, like grey clouds blooming from nothing, solidifying, becoming real. Each was an island in the dark, a meteor that revealed the path she took. Lightning shot across the sky, sometimes darting like the quick-flash strike of a heron or a snatching hand. Other times it forked so much it was like a web, a net to snare her for a fraction of a second before it faded and fled from her. Soundless, there was no thunder.
She walked into the maelstrom trailing meteors, the lightning shot up from beneath her, as the ground did not exist yet, and struck where she had trod. The rock exploded behind her, the fragments torn apart transforming, becoming butterflies that lit the darkness with every hue of the dust from their wings.
The meteors and butterflies trailed in her wake, expanding out into the infinite darkness. Where the lightning lashed out net-like and the butterflies were struck, they exploded in a shower of luminescent powder and transformed once more. Fish with glittering scales and transparent fins thrashed in their place, the light-net was torn apart and they darted out.
By the light of fish scales and powdered wings, trailing meteors, she finally stood.
The thunder boomed.
The trail of meteors drifted behind her until they were all transformed into butterflies, into fish that bloomed out from where she was, where the ground beneath her feet was growing, no longer meteoric. The ground was formed, up and down defined by her presence.
Her being defined the laws of the dark place.
I'd suggest not changing these because they tease the imagination. After this, I'd suggest trimming everything else to one or two paragraphs and then going ahead with your explanation. When I read the first paragraph, I wanted to read the whole thing. But your rewrite, I feel is entirely too simple. It lacks the element of mystery that made me want to read your piece.
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  #16  
Old 01-18-2012, 11:26 PM
Arin Lee (Offline)
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I can tell I'm going to be bouncing back and forth between too simple and too complex for quite awhile before I can pin this down. I'm glad to hear that the original enticed you to read.

By "trimming everything else to one or two paragraphs" do you mean throughout the entire chapter or just the wild and crazy bits of her messing around in the mindspace?
Did I over do it with the "character voice" and bore you by revealing too much too soon?

I have in my mind the bits that are important to the rest of the story and need to be in this chapter in some form or another but I find it very hard to see the bits that are truly enticing to a reader. If anyone can pick out specific bits they like or draw you in it would be a great help in trimming the unnecessary.

I don't know how mindful of word count I should be but I'm always aware that my edits tend to add a fair amount and I'd like to be able to confidently reduce them at the same time to balance it out.

Thanks for your feedback, as ever it was helpful.
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  #17  
Old 01-27-2012, 06:48 AM
somesh (Offline)
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k, I made some changes. Understand that this is based on my conception of yours story. I suppose this is about an architect, or a civil engineer.

You can use text-compare.com or some similar tool to compare the differences between your and my version of the chapter. I only edited the part in the mindscape because that's what I was interested in. The rest sounds okay, but avoid imagery there.

Here goes
All around *her* it was black, [punctuated](darkness is not punctuated by footfalls, punctuate is more of an accoustic verb) only by her footfalls. *Wherever her feet fell*(change this to something more artistic), *rocks*(plural) grew, like grey clouds blooming from nothing, solidifying, becoming real. Each was *like* an island in the dark, [a meteor that revealed the path she took](this doesn't really make sense to me).
Lightning shot across the sky (soundlessly), sometimes darting like the quick-flash strike of a heron or a snatching hand. Other times it forked so much it was like a web, a net to snare her for a fraction of a second before it faded and fled from her.[Soundless, there was no thunder. ](Amazing imagery, kudos! Remove the last line and add something to that effect in the begining. When you describe lightning, the reader already has imagined thunder. Describing it later serves no purpose as the auditory image is already there)
[She walked into the maelstrom trailing meteors, the lightning shot up from beneath her, as the ground did not exist yet, and struck where she had trod. ]
The rocks exploded behind her, the fragments torn apart transforming, becoming butterflies that lit the darkness with every hue of the dust from their wings.
The meteors and butterflies trailed in her wake, expanding out into the infinite darkness. Where the lightning lashed out net-like and the butterflies were struck, they exploded in a shower of luminescent powder and transformed once more. Fish with glittering scales and transparent fins thrashed in their place, the light-net was torn apart and they darted out.
By the light of fish scales and powdered wings, trailing meteors, she finally stood.
The thunder boomed.
Her being defined the laws of the dark place. She chose to fill it with light.
Bright green stalks of fresh grass grew beneath her bare feet, tickling between her toes which she wriggled as she inspected them.
It was always like this at first.
She looked back. The meteors of her first steps were long gone so she couldn’t see far, but she took some comfort in the distance she could see, enjoyed watching plants grow in the tiny landscape.
Her world was an eclectic city, not surprising given where she lived, though Decadence the 9th had yet to break the laws of physics in its design of some buildings.
Into each house she put a thought, whether she knew it or not. Some buildings were out of sight, lost down stretches of half-light alleyways even she didn’t know where there. Those dwellings were always grey or muted in colour, their forms indistinct and sometimes even changing without apparent reason. They housed her secret thoughts. Ones she didn’t know she had, ones yet to be realised.
They were there alongside or maybe hidden by her current thoughts and feelings, they always were in some form.
Everything was around her, never the same twice but always familiar to her.
It always felt like home in the mindscape.
Most people forget themselves in the mindscape since everything around them is also technically them too, it was all too easy to forget to create a physical body. And if by chance they were like her, with a fairly good grasp of their own existence, at least enough to form feet and legs when she looked down; it was another matter entirely to think of putting clothes on.
She was simultaneously amused and embarrassed.
Signposts bent and trashcans lifted into the air at the flash-panic of being seen. They straightened and returned to the ground with the comforting thought of where she was and that she was inevitably and utterly alone.
The thought of loneliness was just as brief as a bulb exploding in a traffic light before the cracked coloured lens reassembled midair and the red light flicked back on.
(I am guessing she's out of the mindscape). There should be something concrete to that effect.) Like.
With a violent jerk, she snapped back into reality.
(After this, cut down the imagery).
She wasn’t even aware of it as she turned her mind to dressing herself.
When you can wear anything you can think of, it’s harder to dress yourself than you would think especially if you want to be comfortable. You can only go so far before even your own mind won’t believe that outfit is agreeable, let alone acceptable.
She focused a bit too much to begin with, her mind tunnelling so she saw only the details. She alternated between white and black, ruffled frills and intricate lacework, efficiently plain and heavily patterned. When a daring thought crossed her mind she experimented with “the bare minimum” then compensated by trying out as many layers as she could manage. She’d heard it was always good to think in terms of layers; too hot you take some off, too cold you put some on. That might have been for arctic exploration though.
In the end she settled for her old school uniform, reflecting that she hadn’t had to wear it for some time and that soon she’d be wearing it for the last time. It seemed to fit the moment.
She stood in a paved square in the heart of her city wearing clothes she was only now really beginning to appreciate while multi coloured butterflies and fish swarmed and swam above her against the black sky.
Though the lightning had gone she felt it inside her.
She felt electric.
Her skin prickled and her hands shook so intensely that she could barely see them do so. She tried to but her vision was hardly focused enough to be certain. If she didn’t feel it so strongly she wouldn’t have thought anything of it.
Maybe the uniform was a bad idea.
But then that was why she was here.
Maybe that even explained the butterflies and the fish, she thought, as she watched them flutter and swim above her city.
Her hand went to her tie, as it always did when she was nervous and needed reassurance, something to hold on to; she hadn’t realised how much she’d missed that simple movement or that she’d ever done it.
She’d come to relax but she was wondering if she ever could, even here.
She took a deep breath, meant to let it out slowly but let it rush out with a shake of her head.
How could she think to ever escape nerves by coming to the mindscape? When everything here was a reflection of her. She wondered if everyone found that by trying to run away they found themselves heading for the thing they were trying to escape.
The butterflies danced with crazed dips and dives as she let out a sharp laugh, the fish darted around lampposts and in and out of open windows.
Nerves were normal.
The thought realised as a slab in the centre of the square. It raised itself like a step to nowhere and she stepped on.
She needed more room around her so the world expanded to accommodate her, everything moving out but maintaining its original form, scaling imperceptibly to fit. She stood on the raised step in her old school uniform, donned in her mind as it soon would be in her physical reality. She was going to be ready for the Expo, nerves or not, she thought.
The zigzag parquet bricks of the square rose and fell in a wave that rippled out from the centre step where she stood as a thought occurred.
She hadn’t done her hair.
All that time on her clothes and she’d forgotten her hair.
Only now could she feel it tickling at her ears and jaw line not quite long enough to rest on her shoulders but hovering above it, loose and uncut. The thin strands of her fringe shifted and dipped over her eyes, she didn’t need to think of the motion that would bring her hand up to swipe them clear. She may not have even done it with the hand she’d created to be her physical presence in her world. She didn’t really need to.
She wanted to feel her fingers through her hair though, running through light brown hair that was nothing special until she’d also run through the ritual.
It was easier in the mindscape than in reality.
Less hair gel required.
She put both hands to cup around the sides of her neck, meeting at the back, fingers spread to catch and gather any stray strands. Her little fingers ran lightly over her temples and traced around the tops of her ears as she gathered her hair at the base of her skull.
Much easier here.
In one swoop she lifted her hair off the back of her neck and pointed it, bringing her hands together high above her head to frame the flame of her hair. With an almost dismissive wave she coloured the underside red.
The ritual of her hair was so innate once she’d begun she barely needed to think of it. Before her hair was completed she’d raised the step ten feet higher and was still climbing.
Now she knew where she was, who she was, she’d ride on her inevitable nerves. She ascended on a pillar through circling butterflies and fish up into an unknown black sky.
She was filled with trepidation and excitement.
But that was normal.
Everyone told her that.
She told it herself.
She looked down at her world in the mindscape, saw herself from a distance.
She was Chiara Alstern.
And she would conquer the Career Expo.
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  #18  
Old 02-02-2012, 12:13 AM
Arin Lee (Offline)
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I laughed out loud when you said you supposed it was about an architect or civil engineer. Chiara's actually only seventeen but her father worked in construction and it becomes apparent later that a love of architecture was something they shared.

Never heard of text-compare.com. Never even thought about using a package like that come to think of it. I'll certainly read and re-read your changes over and over for the help they'll give.

I've always been a bit concerned about punctuating darkness. This will certainly go in another edit now. Your other points about her first moments in the mindscape highlight some other bits I'd wondered about too.

When she forgets her clothes she actually stays in the mindscapes, it just "wobbles" a bit in her momentary lapse of concentration. I'll try to make this more apparent.

Other than those bits it's hard to see the changes here so I'll "take it away" to muse over some more.

When you say "cut down the imagery" is it that you think the descriptions about her clothes and hair are unnecessary? I was hoping to flesh her out a bit more in the mind's of readers here, but I'm never sure when if at all this is working, as I've got a clear image of her already.
I'm trying to streamline a lot in each chapter as I'm aware of how I can ramble on and that some chapters are a lot longer than others. It's good to get other opinions on what feels necessary and what feels redundant. Everything seems hugely important when I first read it through (I can imagine this perception will only get stronger the further into the story I read) and while I'm picking up on some bits it's still hard to take that step in highlighting the text and pressing that delete button.
Here in my case though it's Ctrl X then Ctrl V into a new document entitled "outtakes" - you never know when you might need it back.

Thanks so much for the more in depth edit. It's really helped.

Edit: I just popped over to text-compare.com. Very nice tool. The only trouble I had was that I'd actually very heavily edited the first chapter already so there were A LOT of differences to look through.
The whole re-written section has gone and it's back to the original start:

The black was punctuated only by her footfalls. As she awakened to the world of the mindscape sight and sound returned to her. As each step landed the rocks grew, like grey clouds blooming from nothing, solidifying, becoming real. Each was an island in the dark, a meteor that revealed the path she took. Soundless lightning grew more frequent as her mind raced, more so than on any other day she’d visited. She wasn’t worried about being struck.
I’ve got a lot on my mind today.
A flash, shot across the sky, darting like the quick-flash strike of a heron or a snatching hand.
She walked into the maelstrom trailing meteors.
The lightning shot up from beneath her, as the ground did not fully exist yet, and struck where she had trod. The rock exploded behind her, the fragments torn apart. They transformed, becoming butterflies that lit the darkness with every hue of the dust from their wings.
Meteors and butterflies trailed in her wake, expanding out into the infinite darkness. Where the lightning lashed out, net-like, the butterflies were struck. They exploded in a shower of luminescent powder and transformed once more. Fish with glittering scales and transparent fins thrashed in their place, the light-net was torn apart and they darted out.

Last edited by Arin Lee; 02-02-2012 at 12:23 AM..
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  #19  
Old 02-02-2012, 12:30 AM
somesh (Offline)
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k so I wasn't completely wrong about the architect part.

by Cut down the imagery, i meant not being quite as descriptive as you were in the mindscape. I maybe wrong but around the end of the story, she does seem to get out of the mindscape and return to 'the real world'

So by not being as imaginative in the real world as u were in the mindscape, u cud create a clear contrast between when she's there and when she's not.

It'd be helpful, especially if u plan to use the mindscape again.
So readers will knw when she's there and when she's not by the level of imagery.

Unless that's not the effect u want to propogate....

m glad i cud help. I suggested text-compare since i didn't have time to mark everything I edited. It can show you which parts have been edited and which haven't been ...
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  #20  
Old 02-02-2012, 01:28 AM
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Hmm, she's still in the mindscape at the end, comes out of it at the start of the next chapter in fact. A little tweak may be required here...

Your point about contrasting when she's in the mindscape and out of it is intriguing. While she doesn't do a lot of switching between the two it's something to consider for later chapters when it's referred to.

Thanks again.
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