Aaron Burr, Sir
Workshop: Knowledge Rotten
Name of Completed Thread: Knowledge Rotten
Name of Authors: FennWenn
Type of Thread: Quest
Thread Length: 9 Posts
Feedback Rewards: (Post Length of Thread/10) * ((EXP Needed to Level)*0.05) EXP
Date Closed: May 20, 2017
1.) Standard rules for etiquette apply. No spamming or off-topic posts, no personal attacks or trolling. Focus on critiquing the thread, not the writer. Use constructive criticism and try to speak in terms of "strengths" and "weaknesses." For example: "Your story was strong, but the action seemed a little weak. Try using more adverbs to describe actions or use a thesaurus to spice up your word choice."
2.) Likewise, those who have asked for a workshop should take criticism gracefully. Use it to better yourself. These are not intended to offend or belittle, only show you opportunities to grow.
3.) If at any point you notice improper conduct, contact an administrator immediately. Bullying of any kind will not be tolerated. Arguing will also be regulated heavily. Polite, constructive debate is permitted within reason.
4.) In order to receive EXP, GP, and AP for your feedback (see Workshop Guide), a critique must be helpful, elaborate, and considerate. It is suggested that the review be at least 3 paragraphs and focus on strengths, weaknesses, and overall content. You may use the Althanas Rubric as a guide.
5.)Those that leave an exceptionally detailed review with plenty of constructive advice may be eligible for double rewards. This will be up to the posting judge's discretion. The authors of the thread may request the additional reward be given if they found a review to be particularly helpful. The request must still be approved.
Althy's Judging Admin
To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe.
Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is.
And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try.
Hi Fenny-Wenny! I'm J.D but you knew that. Lets get started!!!!
Storytelling: (10 Points) Ok at one point in my life I read through of Lovecraftian based stuff found his writing a little dry? But what are you going to do about a depression era atheist? Any way what I was left with was a take off of the little dutch boy except the hole the dutchman was plugging had a shark on the other side eating his body parts as he continued to keep the village safe losing a finger, hand, wrist, arm etc. You had the imagery right down and from time to time that kind of terror of being out of your depth came showing through well. All in all a good little solo.
Setting: (10 Points) You got the setting down right I was impressed, you did it with out a total wall of words introducing the setting little by little with each paragraph of plot forwarding. Sights, sounds and smells all came out as Fenn and Dougi encountered them allowing the reader to immerse them selves into the setting rather than boom! here you go blah blah blah blah goth that?!
Pacing: (10 Points) The word of the day is waltz. Waltz's are deceptively fast paced while easily looking like a slow affair. Your story was actually really quick paced but the kind of ambiance you were pushing for made it seem slow as the reader kept on his toes waiting to see what came out of the corner or what ever.
Communication: (10 Points) Ok this is where things start sounding like a broken record. Even me saying that is getting repetitive ha ha. All that being said and done you use internal and external dialogue incredibly well. I knew who was who and what was going on even Dougi's internal and external dialogue and his actions communicated well.
Action: (10 Points) Slow slow quick quick slow. (Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Bebop) by Q-Feel). I bring this up because it's actually quite appropriate for your kind of action. The way horror works and I mean really works is the time between the "holy shit moments" it during the quite times when the character has time to think about what just happened and what might happen next. Now that is what is truly frightening. The slower parts of this thread do this job well punctuated by the "holy shit!" moments.
Persona: (10 Points) Solo's are nothing but Persona. What I liked about this one though was how much time you took from writing Fenn and devoted it to writing Daugi (apologies for spelling it dougi). That is cool that what amounts to a glorified mount got so much time and effort put into it. Great job.
Mechanics: (10 Points) I aint not no good at not writing english not properly!
Clarity: (10 Points) You write very well, there was not a time where I was confused. Let me back up for a moment. I read incredibly fast that is a double edged sword I absorb information like a sponge but smug details escape me. So, me being able to understand your writing clearly on the first pass means it's clear or at-least it does to me.
Technique: (10 Points) This is like mechanics I'm not too good with it so good job. Look I've mentioned this a lot but the use of setting, the slow bits and quick bits all worked to make a good horror story which is something in this dark = gory world we live in. There is a difference between being frightened and disgusted. You took the higher ground with this thread it was refreshing I wish more players did that.
Be the Hero you can be.
Hello! Thank you for choosing the workshop and for giving me a chance to comment on your story!
I must admit that I'm more aware of the impact of Lovecraft's work than his actual stories themselves, since I've never been able to stomach unfiltered horror. I feel that you made a good attempt to reach for some of his themes - knowledge with a steep cost, the influence of eldritch entities on the insignificant, the helpless fragility of sanity, academic detachment and unanswered questions, and slime - and weave them into Fenn's story. To an extent I feel you succeeded; I hope you don't mind me elaborating further below!
Story: The basic premise of your story - searching for lost knowledge in an abandoned house infested by the eldritch unknown - felt very Lovecraftian. Beyond that, you followed a fairly classic mould for horror stories: investigate, encounter, flight. However, I have to admit that I feel you didn't quite get the balance right.
For example the investigation phase, where Fenn explored the manse until he found the object of his interest, did not last long enough for me. This meant that your story lacked the atmosphere inherent to a horror tale - I was not made to jump at every noise that Fenn heard or to fear everything that he looked at or picked up. You seeded a number of potentially interesting clues, but did not make use of them very well; for example, the way Fenn produced the bone for Daugi in the end was humourous (if a bit weird - why would Daugi enjoy gnawing on an ancient, stale ritual component?) but not particularly of use to the plot, and the crucial role the salt played in the end was purely circumstantial rather than intentional. For a thread like this, I would not have worried so much about upping the pacing, especially at the expense of setting the scene.
The encounter phase started off very well. In true Lovecraftian tradition you introduced your primary antagonist as shrouded in mystery and wielding power beyond mortal ken, and then you took the brave step of having Fenn left catatonic by its whispers. Unfortunately, this then led to Daugi taking up the mantle of protagonist, and engaging in a prolonged and not particularly intelligent (if in-character) skirmish with an enemy that suddenly displayed little intent to harm her despite the ease with which it incapacitated Fenn. The reader is given little reason to care for Daugi in this thread - no background as to why she's travelling with Fenn, no characterisation further than 'loyal mother wolf' - and beyond a throwaway line as to why Fenn was more susceptible to the whispers than Daugi, they're not really shown how and why the direwolf managed to hold off this powerful abomination for so long. This robbed them of the chance for an intelligent twist in your tale (that could have involved more of the clues seeded in the exploration phase), and led directly to its most significant problem.
Your flight phase, and thus your conclusion, was the weakest part of your story. I can just about stretch my sense of belief to convince myself that Daugi leapt out of a window with a lame paw, dragging an unconscious body, in such a way that the salt wards were left undisturbed. I might even be able to convince myself that she could then drag Fenn all the way back to a semblance of civilisation, despite not only her wounds from the battle but also blood loss from barrelling through said window. But the complete lack of lasting consequences for the pair of them hurt. Essentially they managed to blunder their way into the manse, get all the knowledge they wanted, and survive the encounter with only superficial injuries and not a hint of psychological trauma. This in the end felt very unlike a horror story, and far removed from what little I know of Lovecraft.
In short, I feel that your pacing went askew: not enough time building up the tension, too much time fighting the eldritch horror with no story development. And I'm afraid that your ending left me unsatisfied, and not in the sense that I wanted to read more.
Background: You're quite adept at singling out details of the setting and bringing them to the reader's attention. I thought you started off slow in the non-visual department, but by the time Fenn encountered the abomination you covered these other senses well. Unfortunately as stated above, I didn't quite get the sense of atmosphere that I might expect from a thread of this nature. I feel that you needed to show the setting more through Fenn's actions, rather than simply tell the reader what his surroundings are; I feel that you needed to get the reader to experience the mystery and the horror through Fenn's senses, as opposed to simply telling them "The abandoned mansion was..." and "The boy combed through every crook and corner of the house..."
You covered Fenn's background well in his search for the tome, and I particularly enjoyed how you highlighted particular phrases to single out what Fenn was interested, i.e. what he didn't know about himself. On the other hand, the reader is given no idea of Daugi or how she fits into Fenn's story beyond 'loyal companion'. The lack of exposition regarding the abomination is to be expected, but not knowing anything about Daugi hurt.
Finally, I thought that you could have made a little extra effort to set the story in Althanas, rather than simply name-dropping the Tarot, the Tap and the Thaynes, and Raiaera. Think about the minor details, for example word choices and mannerisms, that would help to distinguish the setting from fantasy Earth or even early twentieth-century Lovecraftian times (which, given the description of the mansion and its furnishings, I found my subconscious slipping back into).
Characters: I like how you write Fenn: his fae nature shows in how you depict his flighty, playful thoughts both in narration and in action. His short attention span and poor decision-making feel very much part and parcel of his character, and you bring them to the fore in how you structure your story. Again, I also enjoyed how you were willing to put him out of action for the meat of the encounter.
In contrast, I feel that Daugi was not given enough depth as a character. She came across as one-dimensional, with no background or motivation, and while this might suffice for an animal familiar you then asked her to do far too much in single-handedly engaging the abomination and then saving both of the protagonists in one fell swoop. She felt very much more of a plot device than a character, and once again that hurt your story.
Of the two other characters in your story, you intentionally left the abomination mysterious - all I have to say here is that I enjoyed how it 'communicated' with its enemies, in short bursts of concept rather than of dialogue, although I felt that you could have done more to distinguish its eldritch thoughts from the mundane ones of Fenn and Daugi. The cart driver played a very minor role, but stood out in a bad way to me because he sounded far too modern for Althanas, like a cabbie or a bus driver on an everyday route. This of course ties in with my comment above about setting the story in Althanas; it really made me question the location, especially as it was the first thing I read!
Technique: I found your story fairly easy to read, with a firm grasp of the basics and without an abundance of errors to distract me from the substance of your story. I also appreciate the evidence of proofreading, although a number of errors slipped through where I believe you made changes to phrasing and sentence structure but didn't quite correct everything. I've done that before myself, and the only real solution I've found is to work through the diminishing returns of another proofreading run, so keep working at it! Finally, I enjoyed your usage of foreshadowing (revisiting the bone and salt from early on was good, although I do feel that you could have done slightly more), of snappy, well-crafted hooks (posts 2 and 4 stand out), and of fragmentation (for example at the end of post 6, which did a great job of emphasising the otherworldly nature of the abomination).
As stated earlier, I feel that your writing style does a great job of characterising Fenn's flighty nature. However it doesn't work so well in building up the mystery and gnawing terror that should have underlined the exploration of the manse - the dry, matter-of-fact presentation of the setting and of Fenn's interactions with it did not allow us to experience it from Fenn's eyes. It also doesn't work so well when writing from Daugi's point of view, since the direwolf doesn't have nearly as much character as Fenn does - and when you're very much relying on this character in your story presentation, the lack of it is rather glaring.
In conclusion, I feel that Knowledge Rotten is an interesting story that would have benefitted from better execution. In particular, the lack of patience in the build-up (and the corresponding lack of tension and atmosphere) spiralled into a predictable ending that left no scars of lasting consequence upon our pair of foolhardy protagonists. Incapacitating Fenn at the beginning of the encounter and changing point-of-view to Daugi was a bold move, but one that didn't pay off because the balance of power in the relationship is firmly in Fenn's favour; without him to drive your narrative, Daugi simply does not have the charisma or the depth of character to carry her half of the thread, in which she somehow single-handedly fights off an eldritch abomination before making her escape with an unconscious Fenn in tow.
My suggestions, such as they are, would be a) to not be afriad in exercising more patience in the opening stages of your thread in which you explore the mansion, and to use this tension to further craft the relationship between Fenn and Daugi (in particular giving the latter a role other than loyal companion) and b) to craft either an intelligent twist in the tale to drive back the abomination or a conclusion which held particular significance and lasting consequence for Fenn / Daugi, or even both! You've presented the bones of what could possibly kick-start a whole arc of character development for Fenn; I simply feel that the above would have added so much more meat to your tale.
I hope that some of my comments above might be of use in your future writing!
You made me laugh, you make me smile
For you I will always go the extra mile
I hope that the day will come when I can banish this pain
I just hope that one day I will see you again