In Which Tigerfeet Is A Snobby Art Critic

If you haven’t checked out the preview for Ghosts of Ascalon yet I urge you to do so.

I absolutely love to read. I’ve been reading books fairly regularly since early Junior High at least. I have memories of lugging a hard-bound library copy of Pearls of Lutra around and getting funny looks from my classmates because it was larger than my other schoolbooks.

I am also a writer.

“But Tigerfeet! You’ve said in the past that you are leet professional artist! Are you real-life artistic Mary Sue? What gives!”

I’m a professional artist and an amateur writer. Just because I don’t write for money doesn’t mean that I don’t know the craft, or that I am able to appreciate quality work when I see it. (Most recently that’s the Obsidian trilogy. Fantastic writing, good story, characters I care about. I was bawling at the end.)

Something I’ve come to understand as I write and learn the craft of writing is that small flaws that normally wouldn’t bother me seem to creep under my skin and fester. I’m going to complain about some of these things that I saw in the Ghosts of Ascalon preview. All of it is my opinion, and most of my issues are along the lines of “Well that’s not how I would do it.” Which is really an unfair way to write any kind of critique and only manages to make me sound like a snobby self-centered bookah.

I’m going to do it anyway.

I know it’s the first chapter. I know it needs to be explained that “This is a sylvari, this is a norn, here’s what an asura looks like.” For this reason I would have tried to introduce them one at a time, over the course of several scenes instead of one for each paragraph. It’s difficult to remember who is what when so many names are thrown at me at once. My personal rule in writing is no more than three names at a time. If a scene calls for more than three new characters at (less if there’s already established characters present) then I find some way to separate them in space and time.

I would have sent probably the Norn or the Sylvari off on some errand until after the other three were introduced and the trap triggered.

A quick aside – I read once that a person can only follow three different strains of music at once. I was in band during Junior and High School and have personally found this to be true. My inability to focus on more than three differing melodies at once may contribute to my personal preference for no more than three new characters at a time. It might also be a sign of later dementia. It is what it is, and what it is is no more than my personal opinion.

That’s my biggest itchy problem. I’m sure as the book progresses I’ll be able to get over my shortcomings and properly differentiate these mostly belligerent characters in my own mind. (Writing belligerence into characters is a lot of fun by the way. My own characters are always trying to fight.)

Secondly I have to cringe at so much telling, or info dump. I feel like I’ve had information dumped on me. Each character has a paragraph, lavishly crafted, describing her personality and appearance. I would rather see personality unfold over a period of time, learn the origins of the asura only when it’s relevant to the story, and hear about noble norn when we actually meet one.

That’s the kernel of my itch. We’re learning things that aren’t relevant to ‘now’. What a norn should be like is of no relevance to the scene in the catacombs.

I’m a little irritated at the character descriptions as well, but these races being what they are I also know it can’t be helped. This is another one of those “that’s not how I would do it” instances. I try to either not let it bug me or just acknowledge that I’m likely deranged and get on with the story.

And he does get on with it. I think that was my favorite part actually. When he stopped trying to explain things to us and things actually happened it was very easy to put aside my personal annoyances and pay attention.

All in all I’m eager to read this whole book. Many of my personal issues likely stem from this being a first chapter and the necessity for such explanations. I liked the way the action was handled and I look forward to reading more of it. In the end I know that if the writing style still doesn’t capture me at least I’m very interested in the world. That should be more than enough to get me through.

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  • Comments (3)
  1. I didn’t have any big problems with the excerpt. I thought it was satisfactory if a little generic. I didn’t really feel like it over did the introductions but thats me.

  2. I fully sympathize with your qualms. The rather unique approach to background presentation is precisely what I love about “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson, a favourite author of mine.

    http://www.salon.com/books/review/2004/06/21/erikson/index.html

      • Tigerfeet
      • July 9th, 2010

      Cool thanks for the link!

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